Portraits of a defining century

The University of Fort Hare has shaped – and been shaped by – those who have walked its corridors, including many pre-eminent and powerful alumni and associates. But to reduce Fort Hare’s century-long past to a roll-call of the distinguished and infallible would be to ignore the many shades of characters that have called Fort Hare their alma mater, intellectual birthplace and ideological crucible. And so we present here a frank account of some of the influencers who have had a significant impact – for better or worse – on national and international realities in their life and times.

Intellectual and political leadership with global reach

Professor Dennis Brutus. Credit: © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives

Professor Dennis Brutus

1924 – 2009

Fort Hare alumnus | poet | political activist Dennis Vincent Brutus completed his BA at Fort Hare in 1947.

“Remember Sharpeville/ Remember bullet-in-the-back day/ And remember the unquenchable will for freedom/ Remember the dead/ and be glad.”

(From “Sharpeville”, a commemorative poem by Dennis Brutus, Chicago, 1973)

World-renowned wordsmith Dennis Brutus was born in Zimbabwe and raised in Port Elizabeth. He entered Fort Hare on a scholarship in 1940. In the 1960s he drove a series of campaigns that saw apartheid South Africa suspended from FIFA and the Olympics. These successes came at a price: Brutus was arrested, shot in the back while trying to escape, and sent to Robben Island. In his autobiographical The Dennis Brutus Tapes, he recalls that his sports campaigning started at  Fort  Hare, where he met excellent black athletes who were nonetheless excluded from South Africa’s Olympic team. During college holidays he hitchhiked around the country to talk with non-white athletes about their situation. Though dismissive of his own sporting abilities, he played soccer, rugby and cricket (as a left-handed fast bowler) at Fort Hare. His poetry was equally impassioned: while in exile, he earned an international reputation as a protest poet, and a scholar of African literature. In his work, he articulated a deep love for his country. After the demise of apartheid, Brutus continued to serve campaigns for social justice, including the World Bank Bond Boycott Campaign of 2000.

Mr Chris Hani. Credit: © Oryx Media Archive / Gallo Images

Mr Chris

1942 – 1993

Fort Hare alumnus | freedom fighter | political activist Thembisile Chris Hani completed his BA at Fort Hare in 1962.

“What we need in South Africa is for egos to be suppressed in favour of peace. We need to create a new breed of South Africans who love their country and love everybody, irrespective of their colour.”

(Chris Hani in the months before his assassination)

“Viva Chris Hani! Viva!” is recalled as one of the most thrilling resistance rallying-cries of the late 1980s. As uMkhonto weSizwe’s chief-of-staff, and then as general secretary of the South African Communist Party, Hani embodied the hopes of a younger generation of black South Africans. His assassination by right-wing conspirators almost ended the peace process to which he had committed himself. Born to devoutly Roman Catholic parents in Sabalele near Cofimvaba in the former Transkei, Hani matriculated at Lovedale (where he joined the ANC Youth League), then studied Latin and English at Fort Hare. He would later write, “My studies of literature further strengthened my hatred of all forms of oppression…” At Fort Hare he also embraced Marxism, and adopted Marxism’s non-racial perspective on class struggle. Today his name graces the largest hospital in the southern hemisphere: Soweto’s Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, a government facility serving the working class he championed.

Mr John Tengo Jabavu. Credit: © National Library of South Africa

Mr John Tengo Jabavu

1859 – 1921

Fort Hare founder | political journalist John Tengo Jabavu drove the campaign to establish the University College of Fort Hare, to the extent that Fort Hare became known as “Jabavu’s College”.

“We must have men with the highest education to teach and uplift the masses. Light comes from above.”

(JT Jabavu)

John Tengo Jabavu’s father, though not literate, enrolled him at a local Methodist school, Healdtown, which Nelson Mandela would later attend. Jabavu excelled at literature and mathematics, and became one of the first members of the black community to attain a matric. At age 24 he founded the first black secular newspaper, Imvo Zabantsundu (Black Opinion). The paper received funding from white liberal interests, and Jabavu was eventually criticised by other black leaders for propagating the views of the white patriarchy. Jabavu is judged more kindly for his role in creating South Africa’s first non-racial university. He put immense energy into raising support for what would become the University College of Fort Hare, and as a member of the College’s Governing Council, insisted it be non-elitist and open to women. His eldest son, DDT Jabavu, would continue the family relationship with Fort Hare as the first black professor at the institution, where he taught for more than thirty years. In 2006 the Presidency of South Africa honoured JT Jabavu posthumously with the Order of Luthuli in Gold.

President Nelson Mandela. Credit: © Thomas Imo / Photothek / Getty Images

President Nelson Mandela

1918 - 2013

Fort Hare alumnus and honorary doctor | world statesman Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela began his BA at Fort Hare, but left after the principal tried to coerce him into re-joining the Students’ Representative Council – a “rubber stamp for the administration” from which Mandela had resigned. In 1991 Fort Hare awarded Mandela an Honorary Doctorate in Law.

“For young black South Africans like myself, Fort Hare was Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, all rolled into one.”

(Nelson Mandela)

Democratic South Africa’s first president, Nelson Mandela, was born into the Thembu royal family of the then-Transkei. He arrived at Fort Hare in 1939 and was inducted into student life by his nephew Kaiser Matanzima. Matanzima’s later political path was to be the polar opposite of Mandela’s; but another college mate, Oliver Tambo, became Mandela’s lifelong comrade. Mandela participated energetically in the world of Fort Hare, and his autobiography recalls at length his dilemma about leaving on a matter of principle. He had set his heart on getting a degree: “As a BA, I would finally be able to restore to my mother the wealth and prestige that she had lost after my father’s death… This was my dream and it seemed within reach.” Mandela continued his BA through Unisa (which at the time set Fort Hare’s examinations), and returned to Fort Hare for his first graduation ceremony in 1943. The biographical details of Mandela’s journey from BA graduate to ANC Youth League radical, people’s lawyer, apartheid prisoner and global icon are well-known.

Professor ZK Matthews. Credit: © Unisa Archive

Professor ZK Matthews

1901 – 1968

Fort Hare alumnus and acting principal | educator | political activist Zachariah Keodirelang Matthews was Fort Hare’s first university-level graduate, receiving his BA in 1924. He later served on Fort Hare’s staff, and as Acting Principal.

“I wonder whether the time has not come for a congress of the people, representing all the people of this country irrespective of race or colour, to draw up a Freedom Charter for the democratic South Africa of the future.”

(ZK Matthews, 1953)

Born near Kimberley, ZK Matthews was the son of a mineworker and cousin to pioneering African intellectual, Sol Plaatje. He was the first black person to receive a university degree in South Africa – a BA from Unisa – and would go on to become the most influential black academic of his time. Determined to make his mark as an educator, Matthews became head of Adams College in Natal, attended Yale and the London School of Economics, and returned to Fort Hare as a lecturer in 1936, where he occupied various senior posts over more than two decades. A respected ANC member, he conceived the defining democratic event of the 1950s, the Congress of the People, and its document of democratic demands, the Freedom Charter. In 1958, after his eventual release from the mass Treason Trial, Matthews became Fort Hare’s Acting Principal. He soon resigned, disgusted by the apartheid state’s decision to turn Fort Hare into a parochial “Xhosa-only” institution. Matthews eventually retired to Botswana, and served as Botswana’s Ambassador to the United States.

Mr Govan Mbeki. Credit: © Carlie Norval / Gallo Images

Mr Govan Mbeki

1910 – 2001

Fort Hare alumnus, chancellor and honorary doctor | political activist Govan Archibald Mvuyelwa Mbeki graduated from Fort Hare in 1937, with both a BA and a teaching diploma. In 1994 he received an

“We took people who came to the Island illiterate… and by the time they left they were doing degrees.”

(Govan Mbeki recalling his role as an educator on Robben Island)

Known fondly as “Oom Gov”, Govan Mbeki remains one of South Africa’s most revered liberation heroes: a founder of uMkhonto weSizwe (the military wing of the ANC), key defendant at the Rivonia Trial, and the leading educator of his fellow prisoners on Robben Island. Born to a prosperous farmer, he was named after Edward Govan, the Scottish missionary who founded Lovedale College. Mbeki attended Lovedale and then Fort Hare – where he became a Communist and began writing the essays that form his first book, The Transkei in the Making, which wrestles with the causes of rural poverty. At Fort Hare, Mbeki was also a notable footballer and keen ballroom dancer. In later years, held in solitary confinement by the apartheid police, he would retain morale by practising his ballroom dancing steps in his cell. Today his name is an enduring presence at Fort Hare; enshrined in the Govan Mbeki Research & Development Centre.

President Robert Mugabe. Credit: © Thierry Tronnel / Corbis

President Robert Mugabe

1924 –

Fort Hare alumnus and honorary doctor | African statesman Robert Gabriel Mugabe completed his BA at Fort Hare in 1951. In 1995 the University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce.

“Look at some of the people who got the ideology of revolution here. We had Herbert Chitepo. He’s late. George Silundika. He’s late. Samuel Parirenyatwa – late. And Robert Mugabe, who is still around.”

(Robert Mugabe speaking at Fort Hare’s Centenary celebrations, May 2016)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was born at Kutama Jesuit Mission, west of Harare. Though his family was poor, the young Mugabe’s intellectual aptitude earned him a place at Kutama’s teacher training college. “Before long he was teaching his classmates how to teach,” recalled his then-mentor Father Jerome O’Hea. Mugabe won a scholarship to Fort Hare in 1949, but only came as a second year student in 1950. It was here that his political consciousness formed. Fort Hare was an ANC Youth League stronghold, and Mugabe reportedly became a member. In his May 2016 speech at Fort Hare, he recalled the most important influence on him at the time: India’s campaign of passive resistance against British colonial rule. Mugabe went on to lead Zimbabwe to independence from white minority rule. In later years, he has been billed as the world’s most controversial head of state – and also, with seven full degrees to his name, the world’s most educated one. He is among the longest serving contemporary heads of state too, after more than three decades at the helm of Zimbabwe.

Ms Phyllis Ntantala. Credit: © Courtesy Of Pallo Jordan

Ms Phyllis Ntantala

1920 – 2016

Fort Hare ALUMNUS | writer | political activist Priscilla Phyllis Ntantala attained her matric in 1932 and a teacher’s diploma in 1936, both at Fort Hare. The University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy in 1996, in recognition of her life’s work.

“With Phyllis Ntantala, the Eastern Cape straightens its spine, stands up, lifts its chin, and remembers its heritage as the cradle of intellectual freedom in southern Africa.”

(Paul Trewhela in his obituary of Phyllis Ntantala, Saturday Dispatch, 23 July 2016)

Phyllis Ntantala stands among South Africa’s foremost feminists and liberation writers. Her autobiography A Life’s Mosaic provides a vivid record of the home life of the Eastern Cape’s black gentility in the early 20th Century – with “stables for the horses and Cape cart”, as she recalls. Ntantala won a scholarship to Fort Hare at age 15 and became one of the College’s pioneering women students. After graduating, she taught in Kroonstad, and in 1944 returned to Fort Hare with her colleague and husband AC Jordan, the renowned Africanist scholar. Amid Fort Hare’s then largely conservative academic staff, the couple became an island of mentorship for free-thinking students. Later, in exile in the United States, Ntantala became a prominent anti-apartheid essayist and public speaker; and a mother figure within the international community of South African exiles. Her son, Pallo Jordan, would go on to become one of the ANC’s foremost thinkers.

President Seretse Khama. Credit: © Botswana National Archives

President Seretse Khama

1921 – 1980

Fort Hare alumnus | African statesman Seretse Goitsebeng Maphiri Khama graduated with a BA from Fort Hare in 1944.

“Democracy, like a little plant, does not grow or develop on its own. It must be nursed and nurtured if it is to grow and flourish. It must be believed in and practised if it is to be appreciated. And it must be fought for and defended if it is to survive.”

(Sir Seretse Khama, 1978, addressing Botswana’s National Assembly)

Inheriting the kingship of Botswana’s Ngwato people at age four, Seretse Khama was raised by his uncle, the regent Tshekedi Khama. The pro-Christian Khama dynasty valued missionary education; Tshekedi had himself studied for matriculation at Fort Hare, only to be summoned home to become regent. Seretse attended premier mission schools – Adams College, Lovedale, Tiger Kloof – and then, naturally, Fort Hare. Here he distinguished himself in every aspect of student life, and earned nicknames like “Cape to Cairo” for his speed on the soccer field. He went on to study law at Oxford and in London, where he met underwriting clerk Ruth Williams at a London Missionary Society dance. Their mixed-race marriage was attacked by BaNgwato traditionalists and British politicians, and in 1951 the British government banished Khama from Botswana. He gradually returned to political life as a private citizen, and was elected the first president of independent Botswana in 1966.

Mr Oliver Tambo. Credit: © Uwc-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives

Mr Oliver Tambo

1917 – 1993

Fort Hare alumnus, chancellor and honorary doctor | African statesman Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo completed his BSc at Fort Hare in 1941. He received an Honorary Doctorate in Law from Fort Hare in 1991, and in the same year became the University’s Chancellor.

“We who fight for freedom fight also for peace that our children may grow up in a world of prosperity and international friendship.”

(Oliver Tambo, 1955)

Oliver Tambo was born in the rural Eastern Cape to a father who, though a traditionalist, was determined his son should have the best possible education. The young Tambo attended Methodist and  Anglican schools, and in 1936 became, with another black student, the first “African” to win a first-class Junior Certificate. Supported by scholarships, Tambo initiated his studies at Fort Hare in 1939. Here began his famous friendship with Nelson Mandela. On completing his BSc, Tambo embarked on a Higher Diploma in Education, but was expelled after leading a dispute against the University authorities, who had banned tennis on Sundays. He later qualified as a lawyer through Unisa, and opened South Africa’s first black law practice with Mandela. Tambo was also a key  founder of  the ANC Youth League, and later, as the ANC’s President-in-Exile, he swayed the international community against apartheid through rhetoric that  blended heartfelt passion with Fort Harean erudition. Although he did not live to see democracy in South Africa (he died a year before the 1994 elections), Tambo’s democratic legacy endures.

Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Credit: © Playhouse Studio

Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi

1928 –

Fort Hare alumnus | political leader Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi attended Fort Hare from 1948 to 1950. Though expelled after organising the boycott of a visit by South Africa’s neo-colonial Governor General, he wrote Fort Hare’s final examinations to graduate with a BA.

“Standing here today, I feel the weight of 100 years of history. Here in these halls and classrooms, great men and women were moulded and prepared before they burst forth to claim their destiny… I am humbled to have walked among some of the greatest minds to emerge from this university...”

(From Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Memorial Lecture on Professor ZK Matthews during the Centenary Celebrations, University of Fort Hare, Alice, 2016)

Born into Zulu royalty, Mangosuthu Buthelezi matriculated at Adams College, then studied History and “Bantu Administration” at Fort Hare. Here he became an enthusiastic member of the ANC Youth League, and a comrade of future revolutionaries like Robert Sobukwe and Joe Matthews. “Nevertheless, we were still just students, interested in the things all students are interested in,” Buthelezi writes in his Fort Hare Centenary reminiscences. “I remember how we courted the nurses at Victoria Hospital, just across the Tyume River, showing great solidarity when they went on strike!” After leaving Fort Hare, Buthelezi also parted ideologically from the comrades of his student days. He became a sworn anti-communist, coming to espouse a merger of free market economics with ethnic federalism. At the dawn of South Africa’s democracy, he led his Inkatha Freedom Party through violence-plagued deadlocks with the ANC, and became the new government’s first Minister of Home Affairs.

Dr Ac Jordan. Credit: © Photo Courtesy of The University Of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr AC Jordan

1906 – 1968

Fort Hare Alumnus and lecturer | scholar | writer Archibald Campbell Mzolisa Jordan graduated from Fort Hare with a BA in 1934, and served as Fort Hare’s senior lecturer in African languages in 1945.

“All the nations glory in their wealth/ All the nations are immersed in life… /But where, where is the share of the children of the soil?”

(From AC Jordan’s unpublished poem “Open The Door”)

Born in the Tsolo district in the then-Transkei into a family of teachers, Jordan came to Fort Hare on a scholarship. Here he majored in English and Ethics, and met his wife and lifelong colleague Phyllis Ntantala. After ten years teaching in Kroonstad, he returned to Fort Hare as a senior lecturer. Ntantala’s memoirs recall that upon Jordan’s first address to staff and students, “...even before he came home for lunch, groups of students stopped by, excited, telling me that for the first time, they had an African who was not afraid to interpret African history as it should be.” AC Jordan pioneered African Studies in South Africa and the United States. A celebrated novelist, his landmark work Ingqumbo Yeminyanya (The Wrath of the Ancestors) was published in 1940 and described a family torn between traditional and European values. Amid countless other intellectual achievements, he also crusaded publicly against unequal education. Jordan died in exile at his home in Wisconsin.

Mr Robert Sobukwe. Credit: © Bailey’s African History Archive / Africa Media Online

Mr Robert Sobukwe

1924 – 1978

Fort Hare alumnus and honorary Doctor | lawyer | political activist Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe completed his BA at Fort Hare in 1949. In 1998 the University honoured him posthumously with a Doctorate in Law.

“We breathe, we dream, we live Africa; because Africa and humanity are inseparable. On the liberation of the African depends the liberation of the whole world.”

(Robert Sobukwe addressing Fort Hare as SRC President, 1949)

Born into a working-class family in Graaff-Reinet, Robert Sobukwe became one of South Africa’s most dazzling revolutionary thinkers. He attended missionary schools, and in 1947 came to Fort Hare on a bursary. Here Sobukwe took Xhosa, English and “Native Administration” – the course that first focused him on the injustices of the colonial system. In 1948 he and three friends produced Beware, a daily political paper for their fellow students. He also joined Fort Hare’s fledgling ANC Youth League. Sobukwe had been fascinated by literature since childhood, and his wealth of reading informed his gifts as an orator. Addressing Fort Hare as its SRC President, Sobukwe called on the University to become “the barometer of African thought”. He would go on to lead the Pan Africanist Congress, the staunchly Africanist breakaway from the ANC. His political activities resulted in his imprisonment on Robben Island, where the state considered him so dangerous that he was held apart from other political prisoners. He established his own law firm in 1975 but died tragically of under-treated lung cancer two years later, while under confinement by the apartheid authorities.

Mr Irvin Khoza. Credit: © Joe Sefale / Sunday Times / Gallo Images

Mr Irvin Khoza

1948 –

Fort Hare student | soccer administrator and promoter Irvin Khoza began his BA at Fort Hare in 1972. He was suspended in 1973 and refused further admission by the Fort Hare Council in 1974, reportedly due to his anti-apartheid activities.

“If you are called by Irvin, you have to go there running… The man is just too powerful for one to go against anything he says. He runs football in the country.”

(Description of Khoza by his sometime rival, Jomo Sono, in the Sunday World, 13 May 2001)

Born in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township, Irvin Khoza was already secretary of the Alexandra Football Association at age 14. He went on to become secretary of the Orlando Pirates Football Club, and eventually the Club’s owner and chairperson. Under “The Iron Duke” (as Khoza is popularly dubbed), Pirates won the African Champions League Cup in 1995 – the only South African team to have ever won the title. In the following year, Khoza and two other legendary club owners, Kaizer Motaung and Jomo Sono, founded South Africa’s Premier Soccer League. Khoza’s career has since been subject to both controversy and numerous honours. As chairperson of South Africa’s 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee, Khoza played a key role in bringing the World Cup to its sceptic-defying debut on the African continent. For this, the Presidency honoured him with The Order of Ikhamanga in Gold in 2011.

President Yusuf Lule. Credit: © Keystone Pictures Usa / Alamy Stock Photo / Getty Images

President Yusuf Lule

1912 – 1985

Fort Hare alumnus | academic administrator | African statesman Yusuf Kironde Lule graduated from Fort Hare in 1939.

“The constitution of a state is different from that of a political party.”

(Yusuf Lule) 

Born in Kampala, Yusuf Lule attended two elite Ugandan institutions: King’s College Budo and Makerere University College, where he would later serve as principal. He arrived at Fort Hare in 1936, to make his mark as a scholar and an athlete – he was, after all, Uganda’s national champion in the “880-yard dash”. In 1979, after the Tanzanian- and British-backed overthrow of Idi Amin, Lule became President of Uganda. Described as “soft-spoken, mild-mannered… the very antithesis of the rambling Idi Amin”, the academic Lule entered the presidency as a clean candidate, untainted by Amin’s regime. He was favoured by the lobby of Baganda exiles in Britain and his own party, the Uganda National Liberation Front. But after launching investigations into criminal elements within his own, anti-Amin armed forces, Lule was toppled after just 68 days in office. He later joined Uganda’s current president, Yoweri Museveni, in the struggle for a democratic Uganda; only to die of kidney failure in the year before Museveni took power.

Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle. Credit: © Howard Burditt / Reuters Pictures / Getty Images

Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhlehle

1918 – 1999

Fort Hare alumnus | African statesman Ntsu Mokhehle graduated with honours from Fort Hare in 1946.

“For me as a child growing up in Lesotho, Ntsu Mokhehle was hope, and his name was synonymous  with freedom, liberty and political power.”

(Mosotho poet Rethabile Masilo)

Ntsu Mokhehle was Lesotho’s prime minister from 1993 until his death from illness in 1999. He was born in Teyateyaneng in Basutoland, the colonial-era incarnation of present-day Lesotho. His career spanned several ideologies. At Fort Hare, he was an outspoken ANC Youth League member, remembered for asking the formidable ZK Matthews, “Professor! Do you believe in democracy?” In 1952 Mokhehle founded Lesotho’s first nationalist movement, the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP). BCP won Lesotho’s post-independence elections of 1970, but the incumbent prime minister, Leabua Jonathan – backed covertly by apartheid South Africa – refused to cede power. In response, Mokhehle formed the Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA), whose guerrillas trained in “Communist” Libya. By 1980, however, allegiances had reversed: Jonathan now harboured ANC cadres, and the LLA was being trained by the apartheid military. Nevertheless, in Lesotho’s 1993 elections,
Mokhehle’s BCP swept to power on its image as a liberating force. Ntsu means “eagle”, and supporters would signal their allegiance by flapping their arms like wings. Credited with having introduced modern politics to Lesotho, Mokhehle passed away shortly after his 80th birthday in Bloemfontein in 1999.

Mr Lionel Ngakane. Credit: © Walter Pitso / Baha / Africa Media Online

Mr Lionel Ngakane

1928 – 2003

Fort Hare alumnus | actor | filmmaker Lionel Charles Thepe Ngakane attended Fort Hare in the 1940s.

“The trouble in this country is that people in theatre and film simply can’t visualise a coloured man as a director. It is hard enough to get through to one of them, and when you do, you hear the secretary say to the boss, ‘There’s a coloured gentleman on the phone.”

(Lionel Ngakane on his experience of post-war Britain)

Born in Pretoria, pioneering South African filmmaker Lionel Ngakane saw his first film at age seven, and later explained that he could never “kick the habit”. After studying at Fort Hare and Wits University, he became a journalist, writing for publications such as the famed Drum Magazine. Cinema legend recounts that Ngakane was briefed to interview Hungarian filmmaker Zoltán Korda, then directing Cry, The Beloved Country in South Africa. Korda would not receive journalists, so Ngakane posed as an actor, entered auditions – and got not only an interview, but also his acclaimed role in the 1951 hit film alongside Sidney Poitier. Moving to London, Ngakane worked as an actor while pursuing his filmmaking ambitions. In the 1960s, he shot his resounding documentary exposé of apartheid, Vukani/Awake, and created a number of now-classic “British” short films. Ngakane founded the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers, and on his return to South Africa in 1994, spearheaded numerous post-apartheid cinema initiatives until his death in 2003.

Professor Barney Pityana. Credit: © Unisa Archive

Professor Barney Pityana

1945 –

Fort Hare alumnus | attorney | religious and academic leader Nyameko Barney Pityana attended Fort Hare from 1966 to 1968, when he was expelled for mobilising students against apartheid education.

“We sought to cut across this idea that students at university were in some sort of ivory tower, because we knew that [we owed] the totality of our lives and identity to the communities where we came from.”
(Barney Pityana, 2007)

Born in Uitenhage, Barney Pityana first came to Alice on a scholarship for Lovedale. He was expelled in his senior year for speaking forcefully against apartheid – as was his schoolmate and friend Steve Biko. This foreshadowed Pityana’s fate at Fort Hare. He enrolled here after completing his matric in Port Elizabeth, but was expelled two years later. Despite his expulsion, he worked clandestinely to establish Biko’s outspoken South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) as the major political force on campus in 1970, and was elected SASO’s next president after Biko in that same year. At Fort Hare, Pityana was also highly active in the University Christian Movement, and began to formulate his potent alignment of Black Theology with Black Consciousness, which holds that black people should take absolute ownership of their own liberation. Through the 1970s, Pityana and his family suffered ongoing apartheid bans and detentions. They eventually escaped into exile in England, where Pityana became a key swayer of international Church opinion against apartheid. Later, among many other remarkable honours, he served as Unisa’s first black vice-chancellor and principal.

Mr Can Themba. Credit: © Drum Staff / Baha / Africa Media Online

Mr Can Themba

1924 – 1968

Fort Hare alumnus | writer | journalist Daniel Canadoise Themba completed his BA at Fort Hare in 1947, with a distinction in English. He also earned his teaching diploma here.

“And still I wander among the ruins trying to find one or two of the shebeens that Dr Verwoerd has overlooked. But I do not like the dead eyes with which some of these ghost houses stare back at me.”

(Can Themba on the demolition of Sophiatown in 1959)

Can Themba’s life and stories – both tragic in their brevity – embody the jazz-laced spirit of Sophiatown, Johannesburg, before its destruction under apartheid. Themba was born in Marabastad, a community near Pretoria which paralleled Sophiatown in its vibrant racial diversity. He attended Fort Hare on a scholarship. He left no formal autobiography but reveals himself in fictitious characters like “Foxy”, the troubled teacher and Fort Hare English major who wears “clothes that swallow him”. Themba won Drum’s 1953 short story contest, and thereafter accepted a writing job with the magazine – Africa’s most widely read publication at the time. His most celebrated story, The Suit, was first published in 1963. But his work was overtaken by his demons, including alcohol and the apartheid-decreed illegality of his love affair with a white woman. In the 1960s, he found refuge teaching in Swaziland, at St Joseph’s Mission, though the apartheid authorities banned him and his writings. On his premature death, he became the first layperson to be buried in St Joseph’s cemetery.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Credit: © Jillian Edelstein

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

1935 –

Fort Hare chaplain | religious leader Desmond Mpilo Tutu served as Fort Hare’s Anglican chaplain from 1968 to 1970. In 2001 he received an Honorary Doctorate in Theology from the University.

“Desmond came almost from nowhere, in a cassock… broke the police cordon and came to be among us… For me that was the greatest example I could think of, of what to be a priest was about.”

(Barney Pityana recalling Tutu’s courage during a confrontation, at Fort Hare, between students and armed police)

Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp and would go on to achieve world regard not unlike Nelson Mandela’s. His achievements as an opponent of apartheid, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a champion of humane causes are well-known. Less well-known is Tutu’s time at Alice and Fort Hare. He arrived in 1967, after completing his master’s degree in theology at Kings College, London, to teach at the Federal Theological Seminary. The Seminary prepared black ministers for service, and Tutu helped his students to grasp theology in their own, black, apartheid-riddled context. He also became Fort Hare’s Anglican chaplain, and inspired student leaders like Black Consciousness thinker and budding liberation theologian Barney Pityana. For Pityana, the Tutu family’s Sunday coffee evenings  provided the “really good solid, intellectual discussion and debate”  that were  stifled at the apartheid-dominated University. On campus, Tutu experienced his life-defining moment: ministering to student protesters amid an imminent onslaught by police with dogs
and teargas.

Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. Credit: © Eleanor Bentall / Bloomberg Via Getty Images

Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

1955 –

Fort Hare alumnus | psychologist | writer Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela completed her BA in 1977 and Honours in Psychology in 1979, both at Fort Hare.

“Remorse is a recognition of deep human brokenness, and it is also… the place where it becomes possible for the perpetrator [of an atrocity] to reclaim their rights to belonging in the realm of moral humanity.

(Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela interviewed by Faith & Leadership, 2012)

Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is a world-leading expert in the field of trauma, memory and forgiveness. She was born in Langa, Cape Town, and matriculated (like her part-namesake Winnie Madikizela-Mandela) from Shawbury High in the Eastern Cape. In her first year at Fort Hare, Gobodo-Madikizela began a series of courses to prepare for medical school. She was put off by an incident in the zoology laboratory; but medicine’s loss was psychology’s gain. Gobodo-Madikizela went on to qualify as a clinical psychologist, and became an expert on the mental trauma that attended the extremes of apartheid-era violence – from township “necklacing” to security police torture and assassination. In the mid-1990s she put aside a Harvard writing fellowship to serve on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Here she made an extraordinary contribution to our national healing. A Human Being Died that Night, her remarkable account of her conversations with apartheid assassin Euguene de Kock, also emerged from her period of service to the TRC.

Ms Patricia Jobodwana. Credit: © Bailey’s African History Archive / Africa Media Online

Ms Patricia Jobodwana

1941 – date unknown

Fort Hare student Patricia Jobodwana began her BSc at Fort Hare in 1955, at age 14.

“We are proud of this girl who has set a new standard for African education. And who has shown up the age-old belief that girls could not, and should not, learn... We hope that in a few years’ time we will have 12-year-olds walking the campus of Fort Hare.”

(Drum Magazine, 1955)

Patricia Jobodwana made news across Africa when she featured in an evocative photograph in Drum, the continent’s most widely circulated magazine. In it, she is shown hard at work in Fort Hare’s science laboratory. In a second photograph, she is seated at a piano with friends at Fort Hare’s women’s hostel. Drum’s caption billed her as “the youngest African undergraduate ever”. She may indeed have been South Africa’s youngest undergraduate of any race, for she had just, at age 14, enrolled at Fort Hare University College. She was from Cape Town; she planned to study medicine after completing her BSc… and here, sadly, the popular record of Patricia Jobodwana’s life appears to end. Even Fort Hare’s own student records contain no trace of her. As a very young black woman in an era constricted by apartheid and patriarchy, she seems to have faded from history as swiftly as she entered it. Jobodwana evidently completed both her primary and secondary school qualifications extraordinarily early; today she might have been ranked beside prodigies like Nigerian-British Esther Okade, who in 2015 became, at age 10, the UK’s youngest mathematics undergraduate.

Ms Wendy Luhabe. Credit: © Courtesy of Wendy Luhabe

Ms Wendy Luhabe

1904 – 2002

Fort Hare alumnus | business leader Wendy Yvonne Nomathemba Luhabe graduated from Fort Hare with a BA in 1977. In 2005 she received an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce from the University.

“I am most inspired by ordinary women, women who start up a home in a township to look after orphans and who make do with nothing.”

(Wendy Luhabe, 2006)

Wendy Luhabe is one of Africa’s most influential entrepreneurs. She was born into humble circumstances in the East Rand, but her mother – a single parent and nursing sister – strove to provide her with a strong education. Luhabe attended high schools in the Eastern Cape, and came to Fort Hare for her BA. “Black women who went to university studied social work, nursing or teaching – their choices were very limited,” she would later comment. She graduated in social work, but further study at Fort Hare was disrupted following the Soweto Uprising of 1976. Luhabe moved to the University of Lesotho, where she did her BComm. In the early 1990s, after ten years’ corporate experience, she founded Bridging the Gap and Women Investment Holdings – innovative firms for empowering young black professionals and women respectively. Today, Luhabe commands global respect as a thought-leader – and has become, in 2016, World Rugby’s first black woman executive.

Mr Ernest Mancoba. Credit: © Joe Sefale / Picturenet

Mr Ernest Mancoba

1904 – 2002

Fort Hare student | artist Ernest Methuen Mancoba studied for his BA at Fort Hare from 1933 to 1936. In 1996 he received an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from the University.

“The object of African art is not to please the eye or the senses but… to discover new concepts by which to regard the world for the salvation of man.”

(Ernest Mancoba)

Ernest Mancoba ranks among the great Modernist sculptors and painters, though it has been argued that his legacy has been erased from art history scholarship by racism and ethnocentrism. Works like his 1929 wood-carved “Bantu Madonna” scandalised the colonial establishment – and gave every perceptive onlooker a daring new grasp of African spirituality. Mancoba was born in Johannesburg,  but his early career revolved around the Diocesan Training College near Pietersburg (now Polokwane). While training as a teacher at the College, he learned carving and produced his formative sculptures. Requiring a BA to qualify for a bursary to study art abroad, Mancoba came to Fort Hare in 1933. Here he chaired the Literary and Debating Societies, explored Marxism, and altogether deepened his humanitarian vision. He left just before attaining his degree, which he completed through Unisa. A “Bantu Welfare Trust” bursary took him to Paris in 1938. Swept up by personal and political events in Europe, Mancoba was only to return to South Africa in 1994, for a retrospective exhibition of his work, which had by then moved away from sculpture.

Chief Kaiser Matanzima. Credit: © Uwc-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives

Chief Kaiser Matanzima

1915 – 2003

Fort Hare alumnus | political leader Kaiser Daliwonga Matanzima first entered Fort Hare as a matric student in 1935, and then completed his BA at Fort Hare in 1939. In 1974 he received an Honorary Doctorate in Law from the University’s pro-homeland administration.

“I am fully convinced that this great institution will, as in the past, make an outstanding contribution to the further development of the Xhosa people.”

(Transkeian Homeland leader Kaiser Matanzima on Fort Hare, 1976)

Born into a lesser branch of the then-Transkei’s Thembu royalty, Kaiser Matanzima worked for decades to displace the pro-ANC Thembu monarch, Sabata Dalindyebo. In 1976, Matanzima embraced the apartheid state’s Bantustan ideology of separate development, and with Pretoria’s backing, “Paramount Chief” Matanzima declared Transkei independent of  South Africa. Some three million designated Xhosas lost their South African citizenship as a result. A song sung on Robben Island went: “There are two roads, the Matanzima road, and the Mandela road, which one will you take?” Famously, Mandela and  Matanzima were relatives, and had been close friends at  Fort Hare, but  Mandela’s  ANC politics and  Matanzima’s homeland agenda were at odds.  Matanzima was reportedly a diligent student; he was, in his own words, “the first Chief in the country to obtain a degree”. Later Matanzima’s relationship to academia became less comfortable. On one occasion, his Tribal Council tried to revoke  Chris Hani’s scholarship for Fort Hare. On another, Matanzima strode with his armed bodyguards into the Rhodes University library to snatch back a manuscript that proved Dalindyebo’s paramountcy.

Ms Lauretta Ngcobo. Credit: © Val Adamson, Courtesy of Ngcobo Family

Ms Lauretta Ngcobo

1931 – 2015

Fort Hare alumnus | writer | educator | legislator Lauretta Ngcobo attended Fort Hare in the late 1940s, where she completed both her teaching diploma and her BA.

“A woman is not only black, but at the same time must submit to her husband, who, being oppressed, will find it necessary to oppress his woman. Tradition reinforces this, and elevates man above woman.

(Lauretta Ngcobo, 1993)

Lauretta Ngcobo remains, through her novels, one of Africa’s leading voices for the struggle of rural women. She was born in Ixopo, in present-day KwaZulu-Natal, where her parents Rosa and Simon Gwina were teachers. She attended Inanda Seminary School and was “a very religious girl”. Her political consciousness awakened at Fort Hare. Here she began to immerse herself in subjects like the African-American struggle: “…some of my heroes were very American”, she would recall. “Even Malcolm X.” In 1961, the apartheid regime imprisoned her husband, Abednego Ngcobo, a founder of the Pan Africanist Congress. Lauretta too faced arrest, and escaped to exile in Swaziland, Zambia and then England. She eventually became head of an otherwise white-staffed London school, and, with the 1990 publication of her poignant novel And They Didn’t Die, a celebrated author. She returned to South Africa with her family in 1994, and was to serve for many years on the Kwa-Zulu Natal Legislature.

Advocate Duma Nokwe. Credit: © Uwc-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives

Ms Vuyiswa Nokwe

1929 – 2008

Fort Hare alumnus | teacher | political activist Vuyiswa Malangabi (later Nokwe) completed two degrees at Fort Hare; her BSc in 1951, and her BEd in 1952.

“From an early age Vuyiswa “Tiny” Nokwe showed a keenness for knowledge, first in the fables told to children before bed and later in reading children’s books.”

(From Vuyiswa Nokwe’s obituary in The Sowetan)

Vuyiswa “Tiny” Nokwe is celebrated as one of those remarkable women who held together the ANC community-in-exile. She was raised in Langa, Cape Town, in a home where she helped her mother to cook and sell “smileys” – sheep heads – to make ends meet. Tiny was an outstanding matriculant, and won scholarships to Lovedale College and then Fort Hare. Here, she co-led a memorable campaign against a curfew – doors locked at 7pm – imposed on the women’s hostel. She also met her husband, Dumalisile Nokwe, who would later become a leading advocate and ANC luminary. Tiny and Duma were both students of science, and they brought their scientific progressiveness to the liberation struggle. They encouraged young ANC cadres to question “even what might be universally accepted as established truths”, as former president Thabo Mbeki recalled in 2011. The Nokwes were eventually forced into exile in Zambia. Duma died in Lusaka after a short illness, and Tiny returned to the Cape in the early 1990s, and passed away in Johannesburg at age 79.

Mr Sizwe Nxasana. Credit: © Unisa Archive

Mr Sizwe Nxasana

1958 –

Fort Hare alumnus | business leader Sizwe Errol Nxasana graduated from Fort Hare with a BComm in 1979. In 2004 he received an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce from the University.

“I was inspired by this man who had grown up in a village in the Transkei and survived the rural schooling system, even though I didn’t know much about what a chartered accountant actually does. I believed that if he could do it there was no reason I couldn’t.”

(Sizwe Nxasana on his Fort Hare commerce lecturer, Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu)

Born into a family that treasured education (his mother was a nurse, his father a teacher) Sizwe Nxasana became  a  businessperson of extraordinary renown.  He matriculated at  St Francis’  College, Pinetown, and arrived at Fort Hare in 1976 – the year in  which charismatic  Fort  Hare lecturer Wiseman Nkuhlu qualified as South Africa’s first black chartered accountant. Emulating Nkuhlu, Nxasana completed a general BComm at Fort Hare and then his Honours in Accounting Science through Unisa. He started the first black-owned audit practice in KwaZulu-Natal, and founded South  Africa’s first major black-owned accounting firm in 1996. Nxasana went on to serve as Chief Executive Officer of  Telkom and then of banking group FirstRand. He oversaw now-legendary successes for both companies, including the doubling of FirstRand’s market capitalisation over four years. In 2015 he accepted the chair of the embattled National Student Financial Aid Scheme, and secured an additional R4.6-billion to bring the Scheme’s 2016 budget to over R14-billion.

Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Credit: © Tyrone Arthur / Business Day / Gallo Images

Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang

1940 – 2009

Fort Hare alumnus | physician | politician Mantombazana Edmie Mali (later Tshabalala-Msimang) graduated with a BA from Fort Hare in 1961.

Born in Durban, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang attended Inanda Seminary School, alma mater of many of Southern Africa’s leading black women. She arrived at Fort Hare in 1959, and here she made the commitment that would define her life – joining the ANC Youth League. The year after her graduation, she became one of 27 youth leaders sent abroad by the ANC. She went to the Soviet Union and qualified as a medical doctor in Leningrad. Around 1970 she relocated to Tanzania, where her responsibilities included monitoring the health of ANC communities across the Frontline States, southern African states which supported the liberation movement. Later, as Minister of Health under Thabo Mbeki’s presidency, Tshabalala-Msimang made frequent headlines for her deadly stance on HIV-AIDS, which she believed could be treated through an appropriate diet of garlic, lemons and beetroot. The controversy obscured some achievements, such as the implementation of South Africa’s world leading anti-smoking legislation. Tshabalala-Msimang died in Johannesburg of complications arising from a liver transplant she underwent in 2007.

Professor Monica Wilson. Credit: © Wilson Collection, University of Cape Town Libraries

Prof Monica Wilson

1908 – 1982

Fort Hare student and lecturer | anthropologist Monica Wilson (née Hunter) studied at Fort Hare during her post-school gap year, and lectured here in the mid-1940s.

“There was a sort of uproar in the [mostly black] class. And I became aware that there were two versions of frontier history. From that moment – I was then I think twelve – I was extremely sceptical of the book that talked about ‘Kaffir Wars’.”

(Monica Wilson, 1979, on her schooldays at Lovedale)

At Heroes Park, East London, etched into memorial granite next to names like Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Robert Sobukwe, is “Monica Hunter Wilson”. Wilson was an intellectual hero. She was South Africa’s first female professor; her work debunked many of the myths used to justify white supremacy. Born in Alice to Scottish missionary parents, she began her education at the multiracial Lovedale College. After studying anthropology at Cambridge, she returned to the Eastern Cape to begin the fieldwork behind her 1936 book, Reaction to Conquest. Its very title was a challenge to assumptions of colonial benevolence and the belief that traditional African societies were static. Later, lecturing at Fort Hare, and then at Rhodes and Cape Town, Wilson inspired a generation of black anthropologists, including ANC Youth League leader Godfrey Pitje and ANC intellectual Livingstone Mqotsi. In Alice, she was also long remembered for her fluency in Xhosa, and for opening her family’s estate in the beautiful Hogsback countryside to student picnics, when “Whites Only” signage denied ordinary access.

Ms Gertrude Ntlabathi. Credit: © Howard Pim Africana Library / Africa Media Online

Ms Gertrude Ntlabathi

1901 – 1990

Fort Hare alumnus | teacher Gertrude Ntlabathi completed her BA at Fort Hare in 1928, and so became the first black woman to graduate from a South African university.

“Why does Fort Hare give scholarships only to men to pursue postgraduate studies overseas or elsewhere? ... I am not satisfied with the Bachelor of Arts Degree, I never was…”

(Gertrude Ntlabathi in a letter to Fort Hare rector Alexander Kerr in 1943)

Gertrude Ntlabathi taught Nelson Mandela at Clarkebury High School, and he would later recall his hopes of winning a BA “just like clever Gertrude Ntlabathi”. Mandela also fondly recounted being told by a classmate that Ntlabathi was too intelligent to let them fail their school examinations. Although mainstream history offers few other insights into the life of the pioneering Ntlabathi, research by Fort Hare’s Professor Luvuyo Wotshela has yielded some rich biographical insights. Born into a land-owning Eastern Cape family, Ntlabathi attended Emgwali, the noted Presbyterian school near Stutterheim. She enrolled at Fort Hare in 1918, and became the College’s first female matriculant in 1921. She also completed her teacher’s diploma here. After a spell of school-teaching, Ntlabathi returned to Fort Hare to begin her BA. In 1928, she became South Africa’s first home-grown black female graduate. Though later frustrated at being denied the postgraduate opportunities afforded to men, Ntlabathi remained throughout her life the inspiring educator remembered by Mandela.

Chief Tyali. Credit: © Mthuthuzeli Nqumba, Department of Arts & Culture

Chief Tyali

c. 1798 – 1842

Ancestral benefactor | Xhosa leader Chief Tyali is the ancestral owner of the land on which Fort Hare’s Alice campus stands. He donated this land to Lovedale, and Lovedale later contributed some of it as the site for the creation of Fort Hare.

“The legacy of Fort Hare University and Lovedale College are intertwined with the legacy of Chief Tyali, who in his wisdom saw the need to bequeath a portion of his land for the future benefit of the African masses.”

(Prince Banzi Tyali, descendant of Chief Tyali and spokesperson for the Tyali Tyali royal family, 2016)

In 1839 Chief Tyali, son of the legendary Xhosa Chief Ngqika, gave “forty acres of good land” to the missionaries of the Lovedale Institution. This land, irrigated by the Tyume River, enabled the missionaries to consolidate Lovedale’s school and training centre. In the early 20th Century, Lovedale in turn donated some of this land for the South African Native College, which was founded in 1916 and which later became the University of Fort Hare. But while Tyali assisted missionary education, praise poets also recall him as a warrior. In one Xhosa saga, Ngqika is said to have urged “his
one-eyed son,” Tyali to pursue an overwhelming gang of Ndlambe cattle-raiders. “You must learn today to tie and milk a kicking cow,” declared Ngqika. Tyali and his brother Maqoma became leaders in the struggle against colonisation; they were referred to as amatsha-ntliziyo (which loosely translates as “bravehearts”) in their determination to fight rather than negotiate further with Britain’s treacherous military administrators. This fiercely independent stance was one echoed by many of Tyali’s future beneficiaries – the liberation heroes educated on this land that would house Fort Hare.

Ms Gaositwe Chiepe. Credit: © Courtesy Of Chiepe Family

Ms Gaositwe Chiepe

1926 –

Fort Hare alumnus | educationist | diplomat | government minister Gaositwe Keagakwa Tibe Chiepe attained her BSc at Fort Hare in the mid-1940s and followed this with a postgraduate Diploma in Education. In 1996 she received an Honorary Doctorate in Education from the University.

“First thing I say to girls is be yourself, don’t try to be something else. Respect yourself and everyone will respect you.”

(Gaositwe Chiepe, 2011)

Gaositwe Chiepe was the first Motswana woman to obtain a university degree. She became independent Botswana’s first director of education in 1966, and went on – in a career of many inspiring “firsts” – to become the first woman appointed to Botswana’s cabinet. She also served Botswana in negotiations linked to the Lomé Conventions, which sought economic co-operation between European states and their former colonies. She has led many ministerial portfolios, including Commerce and Industry, Mineral Resources and Water Affairs, External Affairs, and Education. Her diplomatic career saw her serve as high commissioner to the United Kingdom and Nigeria, and ambassador to West Germany, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the European Economic Community. Chiepe has attributed her success to her mother who, in a milieu where women were rarely educated beyond primary level, encouraged her young daughter to pursue higher education. And so Chiepe came to Fort Hare from Tiger Kloof, the missionary institution where her fellow Fort Harean and Botswana’s first president, Seretse Khama, also received his secondary schooling. Chiepe is now retired, but still revered as a champion for the advancement of women in Botswana and Africa. Her legacy also endures in Botswana’s literacy levels, which are among the highest on the continent.

Mr Isaac Bangani Tabata. Credit: © Nahecs, University of Fort Hare

Mr Isaac Bangani Tabata

1909 – 1990

Fort Hare student | political activist Isaac Bangani (“Tabby”) Tabata studied at Fort Hare until 1931.

“Each successive generation has been left to grope and laboriously and painfully find out things for itself… It is to avoid this waste of energy… that it is the duty of the older ones to give the benefit of their experiences to the young students standing on the threshold of life.”

(IB Tabata in a letter to fellow Fort Harean Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, 1949)
Ms Jane Gool-Tabata. Credit: © University of Cape Town Libraries

Ms Jane Gool-Tabata

1902 – 1996

Fort Hare student | political activist Janub (“Jane”) Gool studied at Fort Hare from 1922 to 1926.

“We are soon to face a new historic period: that of socialism. Class differences will come to the fore under this new government. It will be rich against poor – a stark maturing of conflict will take place and workers and peasants will eventually be rewarded.”

(Jane Gool-Tabata, 1994)

Jane Gool was a founding member of the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM) of the 1940s and ’50s, and a key mobiliser of boycotts against apartheid “Coloured Affairs” councils, which sought to exclude the coloured community from mainstream politics. She was born in Cape Town to a devoutly Muslim Capetonian mother and an Indian immigrant father who had once housed Mahatma Gandhi. Gool was raised in a home where strict Muslim observance went alongside a family love of English literature, classical music and diverse ideas. Her connection with Fort Hare began after she attended a Cape Town performance by the College choir, and asked her parents to invite the entire choir – including the eminent Professor Davidson Jabavu – home for tea. She was already a fledgling socialist and the teatime discussion confirmed her desire to go to Fort Hare. Although her time here did not coincide with NEUM leader IB Tabata’s, she would later become Tabata’s lifelong ideological comrade, partner-in-exile and wife. The couple eventually settled in Harare, in a house purchased by the Unity Movement of South Africa (as NEUM was later known) as its Zimbabwean headquarters. Gool returned to South Africa for good in 1992, two years after Tabata’s death, and four years before her own.

Ms Thandi Orleyn. Credit: © Philip Mostert / Implats

Ms Thandi Orleyn

1956 –

Fort Hare alumnus | lawyer | business leader Noluthando (“Thandi”) Dorian Bahedile Orleyn graduated with a BJuris from Fort Hare in 1979. She is the current chairperson of the University’s Council.

“These terms ‘black empowerment’, ‘women empowerment’, are bandied around in our country and the question I have been asking myself is: what is our expectation as women? Who do we expect to empower us?”

(Thandi Orleyn, 2000)

Thandi Orleyn was born in Port Elizabeth, and matriculated from Inanda Seminary near Durban in the same year that her mother, a nurse and dedicated adult learner, matriculated from Lovedale College. After completing her BJuris at Fort Hare, Orleyn continued studying towards an LLB at the University, but was expelled in 1980 – her final year – for her role in co-ordinating a student protest. She completed her LLB through Unisa, and spent her first ten years in legal practice at the Johannesburg office of the Legal Resources Centre, a law clinic that earned high regard for its human rights work from its establishment in 1979. Here she became an expert in the defence of human rights and in litigation against the apartheid state. A few years after the advent of democracy, in 1997, Orleyn was invited to head the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), a body devoted to ensuring sound labour practices in the
South African economy. An admired business leader, she went on to hold senior positions in several major companies and continues to expand the interface between business and responsible social development.

Advocate Thuli Madonsela. Credit: © Gcis

Advocate Thuli Madonsela

1962 –

Fort Hare honorary doctor | advocate | former public protector Thulisile (“Thuli”) Nomkhosi Madonsela received an Honorary Doctorate in Law from the University of Fort Hare in 2013.

“As you take a step towards the world that awaits you outside academia… you carry the hopes of our people, who look up to you to... lead our country and continent forward.”

(Thuli Madonsela in her keynote address at Fort Hare’s 2013 graduation ceremony)

Thuli Madonsela was born in Johannesburg and raised in Soweto, where her parents were informal traders. She attended high school in Swaziland, her family’s place of origin, and earned her initial law degrees at the University of Swaziland and the University of the Witwatersrand. After spells as a schoolteacher and trade unionist, Madonsela drew on her profound sense of justice and her razor-sharp mind to forge a career as an expert in human rights and equality; she contributed to South Africa’s new Constitution and to several progressive pieces of legislation. Madonsela was appointed public protector in 2009, and is best known today for her headline-making investigations into alleged state corruption. She was also a hero to many students during the Fees Must Fall protests in 2016: she raised over R660,000 towards a Fees Must Fall fund to help desperate and destitute students meet the financial demands of a tertiary education. Madonsela’s esteemed and fiercely independent term as public protector ended in October 2016 and she will take up a position as the chair in social justice at Stellenbosch University in 2018.

Reverend Tiyo Soga. Credit: © John A. Chalmers

Reverend Tiyo Soga

1829 – 1871

Tiyo Soga was among the first of the Eastern Cape’s major African intellectuals; his life and works pioneered the path followed by the University of Fort Hare’s founders. A residence and an accompanying church on Fort Hare’s Alice campus are named in honour of Soga.

“Did we not form nations in the past? Did we not have our traditional leaders?... Did we not have poets?... Where are the people to teach us our history, our knowledge and our wisdom? Let… the spirit of the departed return to bless us with the great gift of our heritage, which we must preserve!” 

(Tiyo Soga writing in the first edition of the Indaba newspaper, 1862)

Tiyo Soga was a South African of extraordinary talent: a journalist, translator, intellectual, missionary and composer. He was the son of Jotello, a counsellor to Xhosa Chief Ngqika. Jotello was famously open to new ideas. He was the first of the Ngqika to adopt an ox-drawn plough – and he permitted Tiyo to attend the Chumie missionary school. Tiyo continued on to Lovedale College and later to a theological education in Scotland funded by the United Presbyterian Church. In 1856 he became the first black South African to be ordained as a Presbyterian minister. In the same year he married a Scottish woman, Janet Burnside, and the couple had seven children. Returning with Janet to the Eastern Cape, Soga founded the Emgwali Mission near Stutterheim and wrote for Indaba under the pseudonym Nonjiba Waseluhlangeni (“Dove of the Nation”). His writings reveal a mind that was a wellspring for pan-Africanism, racial equality and liberation thought, sowing the seeds of black consciousness and liberation theology in South Africa. He also translated Pilgrim’s Progress into its vastly influential Xhosa version during one of the bouts of illness that eventually ended his life.

Advocate Duma Nokwe. UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives

Advocate Duma Nokwe

1927 – 1978

Fort Hare alumnus | political activist | advocate Philemon Pearce Dumasile (“Duma”) Nokwe attended Fort Hare until 1950, completing both his BSc and his teacher’s diploma.

“They are but children after all, and they have been forced by the system to forego their childhood in the quest for a free South Africa. It is only just that we allow them some part of their childhood…”  

(Duma Nokwe in a letter asking his wife and fellow Fort Harean Vuyiswa “Tiny” Nokwe to buy sweets for young fighters newly arrived in Lusaka after the Soweto Uprising, 1976)

Described as “one of the most brilliant and courageous talents of his generation”, Duma Nokwe was an influential campaigner for international economic boycotts of the apartheid regime. He was raised in Evaton, south of Johannesburg, and matriculated from St Peter’s Secondary, one of Fort Hare’s feeder schools. The teaching staff at St Peter’s then included Oliver Tambo, inspirational co-founder of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and later president of the ANC in exile. At Fort Hare, Nokwe too became a prominent ANCYL activist. He also played trombone in a famously lively student band, the Varsity Swingsters. After graduating, he worked as a teacher and pursued part-time study for an LLB, becoming the Transvaal Supreme Court’s first black advocate in 1956. He was one of the accused in the notorious Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. By 1963, harassment by the apartheid state had devastated Nokwe’s legal practice and threatened his safety. He and his family escaped into exile, and he served as the ANC’s secretary-general and later its director of international affairs in Zambia. He died in Lusaka at the age of only 50 after a short illness.

Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu. Credit: © KMM Review Publishing Company

Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu

1944 –

Fort Hare alumnus, lecturer and honorary doctor | accountant | policy adviser Wiseman Lumkile Nkuhlu completed his BComm at Fort Hare in the late 1960s. The University established the Nkuhlu Centre of Accounting in his honour in 2004 and awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce in 2008.

“The solution is not to just decry that there are few… black executives in key positions, but to produce more skills across the board… If skills are not broadened among our people, inequality will not be solved. Skills will address the lack of inclusiveness of the economy and the inequality.”

(Prof Wiseman Nkuhlu speaking in his capacity as former president of the Black Management Forum, 2014)

Professor emeritus Wiseman Nkuhlu stands among South Africa’s most eminent public intellectuals, with a résumé that features countless prestigious positions – including his appointment in 2000 as economic adviser to then-President Thabo Mbeki. Born in Cala in the rural Eastern Cape, the young Wiseman herded livestock on his family’s land. He was sent to Lovedale College, where he became an active member of the Pan Africanist Congress in his late teens. For this he was not only expelled, but also imprisoned on the notorious Robben Island. After his release, Nkuhlu completed his matric by correspondence. He enrolled at Fort Hare in 1967, and although his courses included politics, “the accounting bug bit” and he chose to major in accounting. He went on to qualify as South Africa’s first black chartered accountant in 1976. In the years that followed, he lectured at Fort Hare and earned the University its accreditation from the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. He has been awarded a host of honours, including the title of Grand Counsellor of the Baobab in Silver for “his excellent contributions to the African Renaissance through his role in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)”.

Reverend Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile. Credit: © Simon Mathebula / Sunday Times

Reverend Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile

1944 – 2016

Fort Hare alumnus, lecturer, chaplain and chancellor | theologian | politician Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile completed three degrees at Fort Hare between 1971 and 1979: a BA, B Theology (Honours) and a Masters in Theology. He also served as university chaplain and was named chancellor of Fort Hare in 2016.

Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile was born in the Winterberg District, north of Alice, and matriculated from Newell High School in Port Elizabeth. He worked as a machine operator in a textile factory before enrolling at Fort Hare. Here he progressed to his master’s degree in theology, while doing pastoral work through the nearby Federal Theological Seminary, a vehemently non-denominational and non-racial epicentre of Christian resistance to apartheid. Stofile was as passionate about sports as he was about theology – he played scrumhalf and wing in Fort Hare’s rugby team, which he captained. In the 1980s he became a leader of civil society’s overarching anti-apartheid body, the United Democratic Front, and played a prominent role in isolating the apartheid state from international sport. He was arrested in 1986 by the Ciskeian police and sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment for “terrorism” (of which he served three). After liberation, he held senior positions within the ANC and the government, most notably as premier of the Eastern Cape, and as minister of sport and recreation. When Stofile passed away in August 2016, the University mourned the loss of an adored and devoted member of its community.

Ms Nomsa Mazwai. Credit: © Nomisupasta Media

Ms Nomsa Mazwai

1985 –

Nomsa Mazwai graduated from Fort Hare in 2010 with a BComm (Honours). She was the first female SRC president in the University’s history.

“My hope for the next 100 years is that we celebrate the wealth that we own in Fort Hare and use it to chart a new way forward, not only for the institution but for the country and the continent.”

(Nomsa Mazwai, 2016)

Nomsa Mazwai made national headlines in 2006 when she became the first female president of Fort Hare’s Students’ Representative Council (SRC) after standing as an independent candidate. She passionately recounted her SRC experiences in her 2008 memoir Sai Sai Little Girl. Mazwai was born and raised in Johannesburg and only became fluent in Xhosa at Fort Hare – where she combined her studies in economics with learning the language. “I enjoyed economics so much thatI loved to explain it to my peers,” she recalls. “I found myself discussing complex economic ideas in Xhosa…” During her time here, Mazwai also initiated social projects like Emthonjeni Arts, an artists’  residency in Hamburg in the Eastern Cape which continues to pursue the economic regeneration of that community. Mazwai was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 2010, enabling her to follow her studies at Fort Hare with a master’s degree in economics at Fordham University, New York. While there, she represented South Africa at the United Nations in a discussion about how to engage young people in the Millennium Development Goals She has also followed in the footsteps of her famous sisters, Thandiswa and  Ntsiki Mazwai, becoming a South African Music Award (SAMA) winning songstress under the stage name Nomisupasta.