Fort Hare a success story for Africa: Zuma

MAY 21, 2016

President Jacob Zuma says Fort Hare University is not only a success story for South Africa but for the rest of the continent.

On Friday, President Zuma joined thousands of people in the small town of Alice where a ceremony to mark the university’s centenary was held.

“It was clear from the beginning that Fort Hare was going to be an extraordinary site of struggle, both for the education and liberation of the African.

“The very name of the institution reminds us of the history of our country. The initial grounds of this institution was a military base, a fort used by the British in their wars of conquest of the indigenous people whose lands they progressively seized for themselves," he said.

He added that Fort Hare became a university for Southern Africa and Africa, gave the sub-region a strong pan-Africanist impulse and solidarity, which came to the fore during South Africa’s freedom struggle.

“This was most manifested in the support such countries as Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania to name a few, gave to our struggle for liberation and freedom. 

"In a real sense, this was in large measure the influence that Fort Hare made on the leaders of these sister countries and the nationalist movements,” said President Zuma.

The build up to the centenary event was marred by protests as students raised a number of demands that related to the National Student Financial Aids Scheme and student debt. However, on Friday, these were set aside as many gathered to mark the momentous occasion.

Public order police were on standby to prevent any potential disruptions of the event.

Earlier, government had said the situation at the university was calm and that the centenary celebrations would go ahead as planned. The university management had met with student leadership on Wednesday to address the issues covered in the memorandum that the students had delivered on Tuesday. The memorandum contained a set of 16 demands and the meeting yesterday addressed all of them.

Among other speakers were alumni of the university Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe whose speech focused on praising Fort Hare for its role in producing some of the continent’s finest leaders. Mugabe studied at Fort Hare from 1950. There were also representatives from diplomatic missions, governments and the academic fraternity.

“Here we were young and involved in campus politics and analysed the international situation…we combined our energies to lead the struggle, that was the nature of our time here,” Mugabe said.

“It was during this period that many of us became aware of the colonial yoke in our continent,” he said.

Also speaking at the event were the university’s Chancellor Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile, Rhodes University Vice Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela and Premier of the Eastern Cape, Phumulo Masualle.

President Zuma said the sustainable development of the country, and continent depended very much on how the current students of Fort Hare, and youth in general, take the challenge that history has placed before them.

"Knowledge gained through education can be used for both good and bad deeds. It can be used to build or to destroy.

“It can be used to liberate or to oppress. What it does, depends on the orientation of the one possessing and using the knowledge.”

The President cautioned against disruptive protests by students scenes seen at Fort Hare Alice campus this week.

“Students must reflect and think deeply about whose interests they are serving when they go all out to destroy their future and the future of their country. Burning schools, libraries and university buildings means burning the future. History will judge those who burn university buildings and schools very harshly.

“There are some who claim that people resort to violent protest because this is the language that government understands. Any analyst or leader who says that is completely mistaken and should reconsider this position.”

Since established in February 1916, the University of Fort Hare has produced leaders such as Oliver Tambo, Duma Nokwe, Govan Mbeki, K. D. Matazima, Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela, among others.

The academic tradition, character and stature of the university have matured during this time and the university has produced numerous high calibre students. A programme of prestigious events and activities has been planned throughout the year and includes academic sessions such as conferences and special lectures; cultural highlights in the form of music concerts, theatre productions and art exhibitions; competitions, as well as alumni, sports and fundraising events.

No less than eight government departments are contributing funds to make sure that the university will be left with legacy of this milestone. This is a unique opportunity to the university which everyone from the institution should appreciate. The university, therefore, is a fountain of liberation of black people in Southern Africa. It is for this reason that government saw it fitting to get involved in the centenary celebrations of the university which are planned for the course of 2016. – SAnews.gov.za

Main image: President Jacob Zuma addressing Fort Hare University Centenary Celebrations in Alice, Eastern Cape. GCIS