Dr Nakedi Mathews Phosa is among South Africa’s longest-serving university Council chairpersons; he was a member of Unisa’s Council Chairperson from 2003 to 2015. 

Born in Nelspruit’s Mbombela Township and raised by his grandfather in rural Northern Transvaal, Phosa qualified as a lawyer against all odds. He opened a practice in Nelspruit but left South Africa in 1985 to serve the ANC and its armed wing uMkhonto weSizwe (‘Spear of the Nation’). By 1990, he was head of the ANC’s legal department and one of the first ANC members sent into South Africa to negotiate with the National Party in pursuit of democracy. In 1994, he became Premier of Mpumalanga, a position he held until 1999. Phosa was appointed by the then Minister of Education Kader Asmal to chair Unisa’s Council through a particularly challenging phase: the 2004 merger of Unisa, Technikon SA and Vista University’s Distance Education Campus. Phosa’s background as a negotiator made him more than equal to the task.