Robert Kriger

Robert Kriger

Upon completion of a BA degree at the University of Cape Town, part-time studies in Protestant Theology at the Moravian Theological Seminary in District Six and a stint as an assistant teacher at a high school on the Cape Flats, Robert left for postgraduate studies in Germany on a Lutheran World Federation scholarship in March 1976, little realising that he would not see the Mother City again for the next 15 years!

For just as he was settling down to his first semester at the University of Tübingen the 1976–1977 student unrests, banning of organisations and the murder of Steve Biko occurred, plunging Robert and his spouse, Ethel, into the midst of multiple forms of anti-apartheid activities in all German-speaking countries of Central Europe, eg boycott actions affecting South African products, activities to stop bank loans, the supply of weaponry and nuclear technology, the international sanctions campaigns against the apartheid regime – and, as co-founders of a support trust for South African refugees in Europe, the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Tanzania and multiple anti-apartheid activities “back home”. His studies in modern philology, Protestant theology and adult education, completed in 1982 with a Master’s thesis on black South African poetry of the seventies, were immensely enriched by his immersion in German public life, environmental politics, the trade union movements, the Lutheran Church in Germany and its various agencies, and especially youth women’s groups.

In 1989 Robert was appointed (as the first fully tenured foreigner) as Director of Studies (Studienleiter) at the Evangelische Akademie Bad Boll, the oldest and most prestigious lay-training, dialogue and public discourse “third space” centre in Germany. Here his areas of expertise ranged from ecumenical, theological and development affairs to pedagogics and development (“Third World”) education. During his tenure he initiated an annual South African Literature and Culture conference series which ran for nine years.

His curriculum vitae provides a selection of:

  • books edited (three), chapters in books (five) and publications in progress (three)
  • keynote addresses, lectures, talks and speeches delivered – mainly in German – to such audiences as trade unionists (DGB, IG Metall, ÖTV, IG Bergbau Congresses), synods of the various Lutheran and Reformed Churches, the DEKT (Kirchentag), which attracts some 120 000 participants, academics, parishioners, youth and women’s groups, and multiple civil society bodies which, during the 1970s and 1980s, were well-organised and influential
  • journal, magazine and newspaper articles, eg a commissioned article for Die Zeit – Millennium edition on a vision of Africa in the year 2050
  • radio and TV interviews, including a 20-minute documentary for the German national TV company ZDF
  • sermons, Biblical exegeses, theological and literary papers.

He left the Akademie in 1994 to join a California-based NPO before returning permanently to South Africa in 1996 after an absence of 20 years from “home”, settling in Pretoria and employed by the HSRC in its Centre for Science Development as Director: International Science Collaboration.

Transferred from the HSRC to the newly founded National Research Foundation (NRF) in 1999, he served the organisation in various capacities until his retirement in July 2015. Apart from duties in strategy planning, policy and systems analysis in the Office of the President and CEO, his major expertise was deployed as founding executive director for International Relations and Cooperation.

Since his retirement he has devoted much of his time to writing (eg a multi-media, interactive “memoir”) as well as to the realisation of a world-first University-on-Rails, the S&T Train. 

As first manager and then founding ED: International Relations and Cooperation, Robert Kriger oversaw and carried responsibility for the implementation of the more than 40 inter-governmental and inter-agency research cooperation agreements as well as for the more than 30 adhering functions and responsibilities of South Africa’s multilateral learned societies, largely in the natural sciences and engineering and, in the main, associated with the International Council for Science (ICSU).

Suidoosterfees 2021: An interview with Wahbie Long

Robert Kriger, Wahbie Long Suidoosterfees 2021-04-28

On 29 April 2021 at 10:00, Marianne Thamm will be in conversation with Wahbie Long about his book, Nation on the couch: Inside South Africa's mind, as part of the Suidoosterfees-Jakes Gerwel conversations at Artscape, Cape Town. Robert Kriger interviews Wahbie to find out more about his book, which he describes as a "letter to all South African citizens".

What is it that we fear?

Robert Kriger Opinion 2021-03-30

"'Defend our democracy! Defend our Constitution!' These are the slogans of a new civil society campaign. After the Save South Africa and #ZumaMustFall campaigns, is this yet another single issue campaign – to free us of the Zuma legacy of state capture, cronyism, nepotism and corruption?"

Reguit met Robinson: ’n Zoom-gesprek met Robert Kriger

Freek Robinson, Robert Kriger Onderhoude 2020-11-13

Freek Robinson gesels met Robert Kriger oor die gehalte van Suid-Afrikaanse onderwys.

Shredding the veil of reconciliation

Robert Kriger Universiteitseminaar | University Seminar 2016-10-04

"At the heart of the matter are two interlinked concepts and realities which manifest themselves in all aspects of the South African “way of life”: the pervasiveness of structural inequality and white supremacy in our daily lives."