Franklin Sonn 2005


FRANKLIN ABRAHAM SONN was born at Vosburg in the district of Victoria West on 11 October 1939. He grew up in the Eastern Cape near Queenstown and in Cape Town. Both his parents were educators with a history of active involvement in public affairs. He followed in their footsteps by obtaining a teacher's diploma, then a BA from Unisa and BA Honours from the University of the Western Cape. In 1974 he became Principal of the Spes Bona School in Athlone and in 1978 was appointed Principal of the Peninsula Technikon where he served until 1994.

He was President of the Cape Teachers' Association for many years and Chairperson and President of the Committee of Technikon Principals for two consecutive terms. He has contributed to numerous commissions of inquiry into facets of education and chaired the Ministerial Working Group to facilitate the establishment of a single distance learning institution in South Africa. He is currently the Chancellor of the University of the Free State. Education is patently a field in which his contributions have been highly respected, but it is only one of the many in which he has played a determining role in the development of a democratic South Africa.

Dr Sonn has also made a major contribution as a politician and diplomat. The appreciation of his political skills resulted in his being invited to join the Jimmy Carter team which monitored the general election in Zambia in 1992, and he led the ANC campaign in the Western Cape before the 1994 election. A long-time community activist, he has associations with many welfare organizations. In 1987 he was awarded the Paul Harris Award for exceptional service to the community by Rotary, this being the highest Rotarian award for special community service. In 1995, as an outcome of his outstanding leadership qualities, he was appointed by Nelson Mandela as ambassador to Washington and served with distinction until 1999.

In addition to his contributions to education and politics, Dr Sonn is highly respected in the business world. He is the co-founder and executive director of New Africa Investment Limited (NAIL), the largest Black-led company listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange, thus making a major contribution to the empowerment of black business in South Africa. He also serves on the boards of many of South Africa's biggest companies and business organizations, including ABSA, Macsteel Holdings, Steinhoff International Holdings, Sappi, KWV, the Pioneer Food Group and Airports Co of SA. He is currently chairman of the African Star Ventures (Pty) Limited.

He has received numerous honorary doctorates from universities in the United States of America, as well as a DPhil from Medunsa and an honorary doctorate in Education from the University of Cape Town. Among the other honours that Dr Sonn has received are a Special Award for Exceptional Service from the Association of Black Accountants of South Africa, a Human Resources Award of Excellence, the International Service A ward of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of the USA, the Martin Luther King Salute Award "for working to keep the dream alive", the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut's Community Leader Award and the Order of the Disa awarded by the Provincial Government of the Western Cape in 2004.

Dr Sonn has made noteworthy contributions in promoting education, business, cultural affairs, political issues and democracy, as well as community upliftment and international understanding, but it is specifically in the field of innovation and bridge­building in the business sphere that the University wishes to recognize his exceptional contribution by awarding him the degree of Doctor of Commerce, honoris causa.