One hundred years and beyond

On 8 February 1916, Fort Hare officially opened its doors in the small rural town of Alice in the Eastern Cape. It was the first higher education institution in southern Africa for black students, though it admitted all races and genders. Originally known as the South African Native College, in the past century Fort Hare has graduated countless Fort Hareans, whose intellectual and political leadership has catalysed seismic change throughout South Africa, Africa and the world.

  • Roots of a Renaissance

    1900-1903

    More than any other single educational institution, the University of Fort Hare was to define the political landscape of South and Southern Africa across the 20th Century, and to carry in embryo the post-colonial rebirth of the region. The University’s roots lay in two historic movements, both independent of direct government control: Scottish missionary work, with its emphasis on education and industry; and the mission-related emergence of an African middle class that was forging its own intellectual and political identity. These two movements, coexisting in a state of dynamic tension, provided the momentum that would in 1916 see the South African Native College (later renamed the University of Fort Hare) open its doors to all races.

    A student studies at the remains of the old Fort Hare, undated.
    © Cory Library / Rhodes University / Africa Media Online
  • Roots of a Renaissance

    1900

    South Africa is in the throes of the South African War (the Second Anglo-Boer War). Imperial Britain will receive the official Boer surrender in 1902, but the consequences of the War will include, ultimately, the fierce rise of Afrikaner Nationalism and apartheid. This Afrikaner resurgence will weigh in against a no less determined African Nationalism, whose leadership includes many alumni of Fort Hare.

    A student studies at the remains of the old Fort Hare, undated.
    © Cory Library / Rhodes University / Africa Media Online
  • Roots of a Renaissance

    1901

    H. Isaiah Bud-Mbelle, a leader of Kimberley’s Mfengu community, proposes the Queen Victoria Memorial fundraising campaign to establish a university for Africans. In Alice, Lovedale College celebrates its 60th anniversary. Opened by Scottish missionaries in 1841, with eleven black and nine white pupils, Lovedale in 1901 remains a non-racial school renowned for its educational excellence. Many of its pupils will go on to attend the South African Native College (later renamed the University of Fort Hare) just across the Tyume River.

    An early view of Fort Hare. © Cory Library / Rhodes University / Africa Media Online
  • Roots of a Renaissance

    1903-1915

    Following the decision of the Native Affairs Commission to support an African college, the Inter-State Native College Scheme quickly and powerfully overshadows the more radical Queen Victoria Memorial programme.

    1905

    Planning begins in King William’s Town for developing a tertiary education institution for Africans.

    1906

    Following the South African War, British rulers in Natal imposed steep taxes on Zulu households. In response to this a group of Zulu warriors led by Bambatha kaMancinza rebel against British rule. The Bambatha Rebellion – as it became known – is brutally crushed.

    The inaugural Inter-State Native College Committee, including John Tengo Jabavu (fifth from left) and John Knox Bokwe (kneeling), Lovedale College, 1905. © Cory Library / Rhodes University / Africa Media Online
  • Roots of a Renaissance

    1912

    South African Native National Congress formed, with Rev. J.L. Dube as its first president.

    Advocates of the Inter-State Native College Scheme, 1st row: Rev. James Henderson, J.W. Sauer, J.T. Jabavu, A. Cowan; 2nd: Rev. John Lennox, Sir Philipson Stow, K.A. Hobart Houghton; 3rd: Dr. Neil MacVicar, 1908.
  • Roots of a Renaissance

    1913

    Natives Land Act is passed, making it illegal for Africans to own or rent land outside designated reserves. The act set aside just seven percent of the country’s land for Africans.

    Delegates to the first Inter-State Native College Convention, Lovedale College, December 1905. © Cory Library / Rhodes University / Africa Media Online
  • Roots of a Renaissance

    1914

    World War I starts, resulting in the mechanised slaughter of millions. South Africa participates under the British banner, but many Afrikaners – still affected by the South African War – support Germany.

    During World War I, King George visited the British Armed Forces’ South African Native Corps in the war zone in France.  © Imperial War Museum
  • Roots of a Renaissance

    1915

    Building of the South African Native College, on land donated by Lovedale College, is almost completed. The first Principal of the new College, Alexander Kerr, arrives from Scotland at the end of 1915.

    In 1914, a South African Native National Congress (SANNC, later the ANC) delegation consisting of (left to right) Dr. W. Rubusana, T. Mapikela, Rev. J.L. Dube, Sol Plaatjie and S. Msane, visit Britain to protest the passing of the 1913 Natives Land Act. © Drum Social Histories / Bailey’s African History Archive / Africa Media Online
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1916-1948

    With the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and Orange River colonies were melded into a single country. Similarly, across Sub-Saharan Africa, large-scale national borders had been imposed over patchworks of colonial and indigenous African territory. Africa’s fledgling nation states, their people still under the colonial yoke, would require a new type of leadership: negotiators versed in Western thought, yet opposed to Western dominance. From 1916 onward, this leadership would be supplied by the University College of Fort Hare, through alumni ranging from ANC President O.R. Tambo to Sir Seretse Khama, the First President of Botswana, and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.

    D.D.T. Jabavu © Historical Papers Research Archive / University of the Witwatersrand / Johannesburg
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1916

    Prime Minister General Louis Botha officially opens the South African Native College with Alexander Kerr as its first principal. Kerr and D.D.T. Jabavu are Fort Hare’s first lecturers.

    As the South African Native College, Fort Hare is engaged in secondary school work, preparing students for the matriculation exams.

    Alexander Kerr. © Cory Library / Rhodes University / Africa Media Online
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1919

    The Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union is formed.

    D.D.T. Jabavu © Historical Papers Research Archive / University of the Witwatersrand / Johannesburg
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1923

    The South African Native College is renamed The University College of Fort Hare, and incorporated as a declared institution for higher education under the Higher Education Act 30 of 1923. Fort Hare’s students are registered as external students of the University of South Africa (Unisa), and write Unisa examinations.

    Z.K. Matthews (left) pictured with Edwin Ncwana on the occasion of their graduation, 1923. © University of South Africa
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1927

    Gertrude Nontwana Ntlabathi becomes the first woman to obtain a BA from the University of Fort Hare.

    1933

    Edward Roux arrives at Fort Hare with his donkey and pitches a tent on Sandile’s Kop. He subsequently offers political education to the students, influencing such people as Govan Mbeki.

    Gertrude Nontwana Ntlabathi, 1928.  © Howard Pim Africana Library / Africa Media Online
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1935

    Professor D.D.T. Jabavu founds the All African Convention to protest the attack on the African franchise.

    A view of Christian Union Hall, University College of Fort Hare, circa 1930. © W.E.B. Du Bois Papers / Special Collections and University Archives / University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1936

    The Representation of Natives Act removes Africans from Cape voters’ roll. Z.K. Matthews is appointed lecturer in anthropology and Bantu Law and Administration.

    Z.K. Matthews.© UNISA
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1937

    The University College of Fort Hare, whose students are registered as external students of Unisa, gains the right to draft its own syllabi.

    1939

    The Second World War provides the spark for many campus debates and has a tremendous effect on politicising the student body.

    Fort Hare students discuss an amusing point with their lecturer Z.K. Matthews.  © Historical Papers Research Archive / University of the Witwatersrand / Johannesburg
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1940

    Kaiser Matanzima is awarded a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Roman Law.

    Kaiser Matanzima. © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archive
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1940

    Fort Hare students (from left) O.R. Tambo, Congress Mbata and Lancelot Gama, Fort Hare, 1940. © Dr Lancelot Gama, courtesy Luli Callinicos

  • A crucible of African leadership

    1940

    O.R. Tambo (first on the right, back row), with fellow students, University of Fort Hare, 1940.   © Dr Lancelot Gama, courtesy of Luli Callinicos

  • A crucible of African leadership

    1942

    Residents of the Anglican Hostel, Beda Hall, protest against the university rule of prohibiting sporting activities on Sundays. The Beda Hall Tennis Court Dispute, as it came to be known, resulted in the expulsion of future ANC President, O.R. Tambo.

    O.R. Tambo on the day of his graduation, University of Fort Hare, Alice, Eastern Cape, 1942. © Dr Lancelot Gama, courtesy of Luli Callinicos
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1943

    In 1941, Nelson Mandela left Fort Hare on principle after a disagreement with Principal Kerr over his involvement in a boycott against the quality of the food. Mandela was serving on the Students’ Representative Council at the time.

    He completed his degree externally, and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Native Administration and Politics in 1943.

    Young Nelson Mandela, circa 1937.  © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives
  • A crucible of African leadership

    1944

    The ANC Youth League is formed and Anton Lembede is elected its first President.

  • A crucible of African leadership

    1946

    The Indian Passive Resistance Campaign against racial discrimination and the historic strike of   80 000 African miners make a deep impact on the Youth League. The League adopts new strategies that empower and mobilise ‘ordinary’ people on the ground. They depart from the ANC’s earlier tactic of petitions crafted by a few educated men.

    Dr. Monty Naicker of the Natal Indian Congress addresses a protest meeting at the beginning of the Passive Resistance Campaign, 13 June 1946. © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives / Eli Weinberg
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1948-1969

    Fort Hare had always stood in contradiction to colonial taboos against the mingling of races. But after the 1948 election victory of D.F. Malan’s National Party (NP), the University’s non-racial ideals faced extreme challenges. The NP began to legislate into action its ideology of racial “apartness” – apartheid. Apartheid involved not only the geographical separation imposed by the Group Areas Act, but also the separation of young people’s aspirations. The Bantu Education Act of 1953 inflicted second-rate syllabi on black children, and the so-called “Extension of University Education Act” of 1959 enforced the segregation of universities. Fort Hare’s students and staff responded to it all with courage and creativity – best exemplified, perhaps, by Professor Z.K. Matthews’ mooting of the Freedom Charter, a proto-constitution that collected the real wishes of beleaguered communities.

     D.F. Malan (front row, centre) with members of his Cabinet, 1948. © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1948

    The National Party comes to power with its apartheid platform. Alexander Kerr retires and Clifford Dent of the Chemistry Department becomes Fort Hare’s second principal. A.P. Mda and Godfrey Pitje establish a branch of the ANC Youth League at Fort Hare, according to one version of events. It is prohibited by the university authorities, but gains prominence nevertheless as the Victoria East Branch of the Congress Youth League. Mangosuthu Buthelezi begins his studies at Fort Hare and joins the ANC Youth League. Robert Sobukwe speaks at the Completer’s Social on behalf of continuing students, providing the first glimpse of his political acumen.

     D.F. Malan (front row, centre) with members of his Cabinet, 1948. © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1949

    Sobukwe is elected Students’ Representative Council (SRC) president. Sobukwe’s speech at the Completer’s Social on behalf of graduating students urges Fort Hareans to build a new Africa. “Only we can build it,” he says.

    In 1949 the Rhodes University Private Act makes Rhodes University College independent of the University of South Africa (Unisa). Under the terms of the same Act, Fort Hare affiliates to Rhodes University in 1951. The relationship between the two universities is, however, confined mostly to cooperation in maintaining academic standards.

    Robert Sobukwe. © UNISA
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1950

    South Africa’s Parliament passes the Group Areas Act, which splits cities and towns into racially segregated areas, and breaks apart historic mixed-race neighbourhoods. “Non-whites” living in “the wrong area” are subjected to forced removals.

    Anton Lembede, founding president of the ANC Youth League, with A.P. Mda, who would become its second president. © Howard Pim Library / Joe Khoza
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1950

    Mangosuthu Buthelezi is expelled from Fort Hare for pouring water on the bed of W.M. Chirwa, who, despite advocating a student boycott of the Governor General’s visit to campus, attended the meeting anyway. Despite his expulsion, Buthelezi, in a letter to Principal Clifford Dent, refuses to regret his actions.

    The Group Areas Act relied on the pass laws, which required that non-whites carry a pass. Here, a woman is arrested for a pass violation, Johannesburg, 1950s. © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives / Eli Weinberg
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1951

    Z.K. Matthews is elected Vice-Chairman of Senate, Fort Hare. Among others, Joseph Matthews and Mangosuthu Buthelezi participate in a boycott of the visit of Governor General Van Zyl and his wife to campus, charging that the Governor General is “a living embodiment of British Imperialism.”

    Z.K. Matthews. © UNISA
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1951

    Robert Mugabe is awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree.

    The constituent colleges of Unisa are granted autonomy and under the Rhodes University Private Act of 1949, Fort Hare affiliates to Rhodes and its name changes to the University College of Fort Hare.

    The Fort Hare student body votes to disaffiliate from the white-dominated National Union of South African Students (NUSAS).

    D.F. Malan’s government starts to plan for “tribal homelands” (“Bantustans” to their critics), with a view to creating compliant black satellite states around an exclusively white South Africa.

    Young Robert Mugabe, date unknown. © National Archives of Zimbabwe
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1952

    Fort Hare students, led by ANC Youth League leader Frank Mdlalose participate in the nationwide Defiance Campaign by ignoring curfew laws and segregated benches in Alice. Following arrests, Mdlalose leads a delegation to the magistrate’s court, singing freedom songs. The group is attacked by police who had been called in from King William’s Town.

    The Youth League’s Programme of Action laid the platform for the Defiance Campaign against ‘unjust laws’. Here, a group of defiers fly the ANC fl ag, Germiston, 1952. © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives / Eli Weinberg
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1953

    The Bantu Education Act is institutionalised. The Act shocks members of the ANC who highlight the effect this Act will have on generations of children to come. In response, the ANC sets up alternative schools with ex-government teachers. Even though they present the schools as cultural resource centres, the government forces them to close.

    A school set up in an old tin church by ANC parents and teachers, in defiance of the Bantu Education Act, Germiston, 1953. © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives / Eli Weinberg
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1953

    Mass meeting called by the ANC to protest forced removals from Sophiatown, 1953. © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives / Eli Weinberg
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1955

    The Freedom Charter is adopted by the Congress of the People. Among other things, the Charter highlights the need for equal access to education declaring, “The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall Be Opened!”

    The poor quality of food was a constant source of tension on campus. Here the SRC presides over a meal. © Rama Thumbadoo
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1955

    Universities Act No. 61 includes Fort Hare among the universities of South Africa. The South African government begins looking into the feasibility of separate university facilities for “non-Europeans”.

    The entire SRC resigns, charging the university senate with ignoring them. Fort Hare is temporarily closed down after the students boycott the graduation ceremonies. The Duminy Commission is appointed by the Department of Education to look into the governing of the university. Z.K. Matthews is chosen as acting principal of Fort Hare.

    Z.K. Matthews. © UNISA

     

  • Apartheid and defiance

    1956

    On 9 August, 20 000 women undertake an historic march to the Union Buildings, Pretoria, led by Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Sophie Williams and Helen Joseph. Evading police vigilance and asserting the power of women through song, they present petitions with 100 000 signatures against the introduction of passes for women to the Prime Minister’s office.

    Leaders of the Women’s March (from left): Rahima Moosa, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Sophie Williams, Union Buildings, Pretoria, 1956. © Jürgen Schadeberg
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1958

    With Z.K. Matthews on trial for treason, H.R. Burrows is appointed Fort Hare’s fourth principal. SRC President Ambrose Makiwane leads a protest of more than 300 staff members, students, and Alice community members against the proposed Extension of University Education Bill. The Bill was to provide for the “establishment, management and control of university colleges for non-white persons; for the admission of students to and their instruction at university colleges; for the limitation of the admission of non-white students to certain university institutions; and for other incidental matters.”

    Staff members walk through the streets of Alice to protest against the proposed takeover of Fort Hare, 1958. © Isaac Mabindisa
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1959

    Sobukwe founds the Pan Africanist Congress.

     

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

    1959

    Composite photograph of the Treason Trial accused. Z.K. Matthews is seated fifth row from the top, second from the left; O.R. Tambo stands in the seventh row from the bottom, first from the left and Nelson Mandela stands in the third row from the bottom, ninth from the left, Johannesburg, 1959. © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1959

    A plaque is unveiled marking the “death of Fort Hare”. It reads: “The University College of Fort Hare, in deep gratitude to all who between 1905 and 1959 founded, maintained and administered this college at Fort Hare and in remembrance of all who between 1916 and 1959 taught and studied here in association with the University of South Africa and Rhodes University.” A delegation of academics, who were due to assume control of the university after the transfer, visit Fort Hare. The students launch a barrage of tomatoes at the incoming registrar.

    A commemorative plaque in Livingstone Hall records when the University College of Fort Hare became a college for Xhosa students only. © William Martinson
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1959

    A sign erected by students opposing state intervention at the University College of Fort Hare in the wake of the Extension of University Education Act, 1959. © Terrence Beard
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1959

    Chris Hani, (seventh from the right) lounges on Freedom Square with his classmates, around 1959. © Isaac Mabindisa
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1960

    Professor J.J. Ross is the first government-appointed rector.

    Rector J.J. Ross. © University of Fort Hare
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1960

    The government takes control of Fort Hare after making arrangements to do so from 1955 to 1959, placing it in the hands of the Department of Bantu Education. Fort Hare becomes a government institution with two senates: one made up of whites and the other advisory one comprising black staff.

    Robert Sobukwe (centre) leading a PAC anti-pass march, 1960. © Drum Social Histories / BaIley’s African History Archive / Africa MedIa OnlIne
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1960

    The PAC organises peaceful anti-pass protests at Sharpeville and Langa. At least 69 people are shot dead by police in Sharpeville. Panicking, the government declares a state of emergency, outlawing the ANC and the PAC.  Sobukwe is sentenced to three years in prison; O.R. Tambo leaves the country to set up an ANC mission in exile.

    More than five thousand people attend the funeral, Sharpeville, March, 1960. © Peter Magubane
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1961

    Led by hard-line nationalist Hendrik Verwoerd, South Africa leaves the British Commonwealth and declares itself a Republic. Hereafter, Verwoerd’s government refuses to accept black ambassadors from Commonwealth states.

    Stanley Mabizela is suspended for badmouthing Kaiser Matanzima after Matanzima overhears him saying, “Kuzele apha ziinyhwagi,” and “nantsi le nyhwagi uMatanzima.” At the time, Matanzima was a member of the all-black Fort Hare advisory council that the students felt was useless and made up of sell-outs. Following protest by students and black staff, Mabizela is reinstated. As it turns out, Mabizela was not the student that directed the harsh words towards Matanzima, but he took the rap, refusing to “sell out” his fellow student. Chris Hani is involved in protesting against the creation of a Republic. The underground ANC calls for a three-day stay-away. The ANC adopts an armed struggle and uMkhonto weSizwe is formed, with Nelson Mandela as Chief of Staff.

    President C.R. Swart at Republic Day celebrations, 1961. Republic Day was celebrated annually on 31 May, the day SA left the Commonwealth. © Drum Social Historys / BaIley’s African History Archive
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1962-1964

    ANC leaders operating underground are arrested at Lilliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg. Mandela, already in prison, is also charged. The accused face the death penalty. Mandela’s statement from the dock during the trial that he is ready to die for his people moves the world. In exile, Tambo addresses the United Nations calling for international support. The judge sentences the accused to life imprisonment without parole.

    Police investigate dynamited electricity pylons after a successful uMkhonto weSizwe sabotage operation, September 1962. © Drum Social Histories / BaIley’s African History Archive / Africa Media Online
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1962

    Isaac Mabindisa (left), Chris Hani (centre), and Leslie Xinwa, Fort Hare graduation, 1962.
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1963

    Winnie Mandela (right) and Nelson Mandela’s mother, Noqaphi Nosekeni (left), outside the Palace of Justice during the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria, 1963. © Drum Social Histories / BaIley’s African History Archive / Africa MedIa Online
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1968

    Professor Johannes Marthinus de Wet, a member of the Broederbond, is appointed principal after Ross retires. The students boycott his installation ceremony, beginning a rocky relationship with the new rector that culminates in the closure of the university later in the year. Among 23 others, Barney Pityana and Kenneth Rachidi are not allowed to come back.

    Professor Johannes Marthinus de Wet. © Drum Photographer / Africa Media Online
  • Apartheid and defiance

    1968-1973

    Signs of resistance re-emerge.  The underground slowly grows, with cadres trickling into South Africa in dribs and drabs; some are arrested and sentenced to Robben Island.  The trial of Winnie Mandela and 21 others reveals to the public that an underground movement is operational.  In 1969, students supporting the Black Consciousness (BC) philosophy form their own independent South African Students’ Organisation (SASO), and in 1973, the democratic labour movement explosively re-emerges.

    1969

    The South African Students’ Organisation is formed by University of Natal student Steve Biko and Fort Hare student, Barney Pityana, among others.

    Reproduction of a 1972 SASO newsletter cover with SASO’s logo of a hand in a Black Power salute. © saso
  • Resistance in the wilderness

    1970-1989

    By 1970, the triumph of apartheid seemed complete. The government had imprisoned many of its chief opponents – typified by the figure of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island – and had forced most of the remaining liberation leaders to withdraw into exile. Forging ahead with its apartheid dream, the government passed the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act, directed toward stripping all black South Africans of their South African citizenship, and instead making them citizens of nominally independent “tribal homelands”. The implications for Fort Hare were dire; the University seemed destined to serve only the Ciskei, the tiny homeland regime into which it fell. At Fort Hare, as at other black universities across South Africa, the two decades that followed were characterised by unceasing student protests and campus shutdowns.

    1971

    Supporting the principles of the 1959 SRC boycott, but believing the students need an effective organisational body, a delegation of 23 students led by, among others, Jeffrey Baqwa, begins to campaign for the reintroduction of an SRC. In early 1972, a mass meeting of students supports the proposition wholeheartedly. However, De Wet refuses to accept the motion, charging that the meeting did not adhere to official regulations.

    1972

    As students prepare to strike in protest against the university’s refusal to recognise an SRC, Abram Onkgopotse Tiro is expelled from the University of the North at Turfloop for giving a speech deemed inappropriate by the university. A sympathy strike breaks out at Fort Hare as campus unrest coincides with “a national revolutionary upsurge” sparked by SASO.

     Abram Onkgopotse Tiro, circa 1970s. © Ronnie KweyI / Rand Daily Mail / Times Media Group
  • Resistance in the wilderness

    1970

    A photo of the cover of an old Bophuthatswana passport. Black South Africans living in the homelands needed passports to enter South Africa.

    © Pieter du Plessis / University of South Africa, Courtesy of Mahibitswane Magdeline Tshikare
  • Resistance in the wilderness

    1973

    In a continuance of the unrest of 1972, a student strike is sparked after the suspension of a student for breaking the notorious “Hogsback Rule,” which limits contact between men and women. The strike escalates and the police are called onto campus.

    Bantustan leaders, 1973. From left: Chief Buthelezi (KwaZulu), Collins Ramusi (Lebowa), Lennox Sebe (Ciskei), Chief Matanzima (Transkei), Prof Ntsanwisi (Gazankulu) and Chief Mangope (Bophuthatswana). © Drum Social Histories / BaIley’s African History Archive / Africa Media  Online
  • Resistance in the wilderness

    1973

    Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Robert Sobukwe meet on a pavement in the Johannesburg city centre, 14 July 1973. © Benjamin Pogrund / Historical Papers Research Archive / University of the Witwatersrand / Johannesburg
  • Resistance in the wilderness

    1975

    Angola and Mozambique achieve independence. A gathering of young people at Curries Fountain in Durban celebrating Frelimo’s victory in Mozambique results in the arrest, trial and imprisonment of some key SASO and BC leaders.

    O.R. Tambo and Mozambican President Samora Machel, Maputo, Mozambique. © UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives
  • Resistance in the wilderness

    1976

    Following the June Soweto uprising, Fort Hare shuts down, reopening in October of that year.

    Students protest against Bantu Education and the imposition of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction, Soweto, 16 June 1976. © Peter Magubane
  • Resistance in the wilderness

    1980

    Students stay away from classes to protest the impending “independence” of the Ciskei. By May, the university has closed down. Rhodesia, whose white minority regime broke away from a decolonising Britain in 1965, holds democratic elections. Robert Mugabe, a University of Fort Hare graduate, becomes Prime Minister of the new state, Zimbabwe.

    Professor Mbulelo Mzamane, 1980. © DavId Larsen / Africa Media Online
  • Resistance in the wilderness

    1983-1985

    In 1983, the United Democratic Front (UDF), a national federation of anti-apartheid community organisations, initiates a new era of mass resistance. It rejects South African President P.W. Botha’s bogus ‘reforms’, dummy councillors in the townships, and his second-class, segregated parliament for coloureds and Indians. Township civic organisations align with the giant trade union movement, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), after its 1985 formation.

    ANC stalwart Frances Baard salutes the crowd at the launch of the United Democratic Front, Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town, 20 August 1983. © Paul Weinberg / South Photographs / Africa Media Online
  • Resistance in the wilderness

    1985

    Confrontation between students and the Ciskei Security Police follows student protest against the intended presence of Lennox Sebe, Chief Minister of the Ciskei Homeland, at graduation. Unrest continues until the university is shut down.

    Amid swelling mass protests, President P.W. Botha announces the first of a series of national “States of Emergency”.  These brutally curtail civil freedoms, and ultimately hasten apartheid’s end.

    Angry youths burn the car of an alleged police informer signalling the beginning of the campaign to make South Africa “ungovernable”, Duduza, East Rand, July 1985. © Paul Weinberg / South Photographs / Africa Media Online
  • Democracy and development

    1990-2016

    Unable to bear the economic and psychological costs of apartheid, the National Party entered into “talks about talks” with the ANC in 1990. South Africa emerged as a democracy in 1994, and – to the relief of Fort Hare’s student body – the “independent” Ciskei was reincorporated into the South African state. Democracy could not, however, instantly heal the centuries-old impoverishment of the Eastern Cape’s black communities. Answering the post-apartheid era’s socio-economic challenges, Fort Hare’s strategic plans have stressed the University’s proximity to disadvantaged communities, and its capacity to assist. With initiatives ranging from the reintroduction of hardy, indigenous Nguni cattle to community pastures, through to bringing computer skills to remote rural schools, Fort Hare has renewed the spirit of service that characterised its pre-apartheid golden age.

    Miriam Makeba and President Nelson Mandela, circa 1990s. © Times Media

     

  • Democracy and development

    1990

    Following a bloodless coup, Brigadier Gqoza assumes control of the Ciskei government and sends his troops to Fort Hare to thwart student protest. Fort Hare becomes the custodian of the archives of the African National Congress and the Pan African Congress.

    In a speech delivered on 2 February, F.W. De Klerk unbans the leading liberation movements and enters into “talks about talks” aimed at transforming South Africa. On 11 February Nelson Mandela is released from Victor Verster prison. Bantu Education ends at Fort Hare. Professor Sibusiso Bengu is appointed the first black Vice Chancellor of the University. O.R. Tambo, the new Chancellor, accepts his post and remarks that Fort Hare has been “since its birth, a site of epic battles between forces of democracy and those opposed to it.”

    Professor Sibusiso Bengu. © Government Communication and Information System
  • Democracy and development

    1994

    For the very first time, South Africans vote in a democratic election.  As Mandela casts his ballot, he thinks of the many fallen heroes who have made this day possible. Professor Bengu takes up the post of Education Minister.

    Professor Mbulelo Mzamane is inaugurated as Vice Chancellor of Fort Hare with Govan Mbeki as the Chancellor.

    Voters queue to vote in South Africa’s fi rst democratic elections, Pretoria, 27 April 1994. © Graeme WiliIams / South Photographs / Africa Media Online
  • Democracy and development

    1997

    Fort Hare celebrates its 80th anniversary in style as President Mandela and Miriam Makeba arrive on campus for the festivities. The all-party Constitutional Assembly adopts the famed Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and its foundational document, the Bill of Rights. Its preamble bears witness to the injustices of South Africa’s past and commits to the creation of a united, democratic South Africa.

    The Higher Education Act is passed. It seeks to reverse the legacy of Bantu Education, to create a knowledge-driven society, and to “respect and encourage democracy, academic freedom, scholarship and research”. Fort Hare is closed down for two weeks due to student protest over fees.

    Miriam Makeba and President Nelson Mandela, circa 1990s. © Times Media
  • Democracy and development

    1999

    Independent Assessor Stuart Saunders issues a report charging Mbulelo Mzamane with the misuse of university funds. Students, staff and workers resign not to return to work until the “3 Ms” are removed from office. On 25 March, Mzamane, along with his deputy, Professor Maqashalala and the university registrar, Isaac Mabindisa, are asked by the council to take six months’ paid leave. In the meantime, an interim management team is set up, led by acting Vice Chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz. Fort Hare’s Telkom Centre of Excellence is instituted. In partnership with its twin Telkom Centre of Excellence at Rhodes University, in the next decade it will bring computer skills and internet connectivity to 17 remote rural schools.

    Derrick Swartz. © Times Media Group
  • Democracy and development

    2001

    In 2000, the University launches a strategic plan for transformation and repositioning. Underlying the plan is a universal commitment to make the University worthy of its rich inheritance. The following year, in 2001, President Thabo Mbeki delivers the inaugural Z.K. Matthews Memorial Lecture.

    President Thabo Mbeki at Fort Hare in 2001. © Simon Mathebula
  • Democracy and development

    2003

    The inaugural Robert Sobukwe Memorial Lecture is delivered by Professor Es’kia Mphahlele. Fort Hare launches its acclaimed Nguni Cattle Project. The Project has since repopulated many community pastures with this disease-and-drought resistant indigenous breed.

    Award-winning writer and poet Professor Es’kia Mphahlele. Mphahlele made waves in the literary world with his extensive contribution to South African writing. He died in 2008. © Peter Mogaki / Times Media Group

     

  • Democracy and development

    2004

    The Department of Education, under Minister Kader Asmal, embarks on a nationwide restructuring of the Higher Education sector. This sees Rhodes University’s East London campus re-incorporated as a campus of Fort Hare.

    Former Minister of Education, Kader Asmal. © University of South Africa
  • Democracy and development

    2008

    Dr. Mvuyo Tom, who lasted only one year at Fort Hare as a student in the 1970s, takes over as Vice-Chancellor of Fort Hare. In his inaugural address, he says: “If we forget the history we have been through in this country we are bound to abuse and misuse our freedom.” He lays out a five-year strategic plan to improve curriculum, enhance research, boost student life and ensure financial stability.

    Dr. Mvuyo Tom. © Daily Dispatch
  • Democracy and development

    2013

    The world and the nation mourn Nelson Mandela’s passing at the age of 95.  He rests, figuratively, beside Gandhi and Martin Luther King as a global icon of peace.

    President Nelson Mandela. Credit: © Thomas Imo / Photothek / Getty Images
  • Democracy and development

    2014

    The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr. Blade Nzimande, launches the White Paper for Post School Education and Training, emphasising the need for access to higher education and for the establishment of more universities in South Africa.

    Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr. Blade Nzimande is pictured here at the University of Johannesburg, October 2011. © Madelene Cronje / Mail and Guardian
  • Democracy and development

    2016

    University of Fort Hare students march through the campus as part of nationwide protests against proposed fee increases. The protests became known as the Fees Must Fall campaign. © Picture: Thomas Holders/Eyewitness News
  • Democracy and development

    2016

    A new degree in Human Settlement is launched within the context of centenary celebrations. A new residence is built with a capacity to accommodate 2 500 students. The Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (DASO) wins the SRC elections on the Alice main campus. Students take to the streets to demand that the government scrap fees for higher education study.

    From left: Dr Mvuyo Tom (Vice Chancellor); Ms Thandi Orleyn (Chairperson of Council); Prince Dabula (NEHAWU Secretary); and Vuyani Booi (Chairperson of the Institutional Forum) cut the Centenary cake at the launch of the University of Fort Hare Centenary celebrations, 8 February 2016. © Mark Andrews / Daily Dispatch