Professor Njabulo Simakahle Ndebele, an academic and writer of fiction, is the former Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Cape Town (UCT). In late 2012 he was inaugurated as the Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg. An established novelist, Ndebele published The Cry of Winnie Mandela in 2004 to critical acclaim. An earlier publication Fools and Other Stories won the Noma Award, Africa’s highest literary award for the best book published in Africa in 1984. His highly influential essays on South African literature and culture were published in a collection Rediscovery of the Ordinary. Ndebele served as President of the Congress of South African Writers for many years.
As a public figure, he is known for his incisive insights in commentaries on a range of public issues in South Africa. Ndebele is also a key figure in South African higher education. He has served as Chair of the South African Universities Vice-Chancellors Association from 2002 to 2005 and served on the Executive Board of the Association of African Universities since 2001. He has done public service in South Africa in the areas of broadcasting policy, school curriculum in history, and more recently as chair of a government commission on the development and use of African languages as media of instruction in South African higher education.
He holds honorary doctorates from universities in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Japan, South Africa and the United States. The University of Cambridge awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Law in 2006, and he was made an honorary fellow of Churchill College in 2007. In 2008 the University of Michigan awarded him another Honorary Doctorate in Law