The headquarters of Fort Hare’s ANC Youth League (ANCYL) is named after Anton Lembede, the League’s founding president and one of its leading thinkers. In 1944, together with comrades Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and others, Lembede rejected the cautiousness of the ANC’s elders and initiated a radical programme of strikes and demonstrations that would set the ANC and South Africa on a new path. After a long period of decline, the ANCYL was relaunched in 1991. Today it contributes to a robust world of student politics at Fort Hare from these headquarters.
Anton Lembede and AP Mda are photographed at Mda’s graduation ceremony on 26 July 1947. The two enjoyed what has been described as an “intellectual friendship”. In Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela observed: “Lembede’s friend and partner was Peter Mda, better known as AP. While Lembede tended to imprecision and was inclined to be verbose, Mda was controlled and exact. Lembede could be vague and mystical; Mda was specific and scientific. Mda’s practicality was a perfect foil for Lembede’s idealism.” Lembede would pass away unexpectedly only four days after this photo was taken, on 30 July 1947. Mda was also closely involved in the establishment of the Youth League and he would succeed his friend as its president after Lembede’s death. According to some accounts, in 1948, Mda would write to Godfrey Pitje about establishing a branch of the ANCYL at Fort Hare. The branch was formally founded in November that year. © The Lembede family