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Durban-born freedom fighter scoops HPCSA Presidential Merit Award in Psychology

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By Ashok Ramsarup ::  One of South Africa’s leading freedom fighters – Professor SATHASIVIAN “SATHS” COOPER – has been honoured with the first Health Professions of South Africa (HPCSA) Presidential Merit Award in Psychology.

This award comes on the heels of the inaugural International Union of Psychological Science Achievement Against the Odds Award and the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Advancement of Psychology.

Prof Cooper who was one of the founding members of the Black Consciousness Movement, had been instrumental in playing a pivotal role both locally and on the international front as a clinical psychologist. He succeeded in improving the psychological discipline after being the first person of colour to be elected Chairperson of the Professional Board of Psychology of Health Professions Council of South Africa.

Prof Cooper, who was Vice-Chancellor of the former University of Durban-Westville, spent his time in the same prison block on Robben Island with South Africa’s first black president Nelson Mandela between 1977 to 1982, owes this award to all those who want to serve the democratic country.

Speaking candidly, the Durban-born political activist said psychology was not his first profession. In 1987-1989, he was refused registration by the old auxiliary board of the South African Medical Council. Being a diehard activist, Prof Cooper persevered to reach his desired goal in life to liberate the country and liberate the medical fraternity.

Prof Cooper is currently President of the Pan-African Psychology Union and immediate Past President of the International Union of Psychological Science. He is also Governing Board Member of the International Science Council and a Fellow of the psychological societies of South Africa, India, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

He was a close colleague of the late Steve Biko and a co-founder of the Black Consciousness ideology. Prof Cooper was banned and house-arrested and jailed for nine years in the anti-apartheid struggle. He was the first accused in the marathon SASO/BPC trial.  After his release from Robben Island in 1982, he continued the struggle against the apartheid regime.  His home was petrol-bombed in 1984. During the state of emergency in June 1986, Prof Cooper suffered his last imprisonment.

Despite undergoing suffering and humiliation, he continued his leadership roles in educational, community, political, professional,  scientific and various civil society formations in the country and abroad.  In 1986, Prof Cooper was granted his first passport and later completed his Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical/Community Psychology as a Fulbright Scholar at Boston University in the United States.

In 1998, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (chaired by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu) declared Prof Cooper a ‘victim of gross human rights violations’.

President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed Prof Cooper’s appointment to the new South African Broadcasting Corporation Board recently.

Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa 🇿🇦

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