Research any notable university around the world and one of the most important aspects of that research will focus on the institution’s alumni, that celebration of past students’ achievements that inspire aspirant students wishing to follow in their illustrious footsteps. The alumni provide a powerful snapshot of an institution - its values, its impact on society, and its ability to create a challenging learning environment that creates and nutures leaders of tomorrow. Scrolling through the illustrious alumni of the globally renowned University of Fort Hare, located in Alice in the Eastern Cape, stimulates many emotions, including an immense sense of pride.
Throughout its history, the institution has launched thousands of graduates into the world who subsequently went on to become important, trailblazing figures in politics, business, law, education, medicine, science, and the humanities. Some have made technological breakthroughs, developed innovative products, or discovered lifesaving treatments, while others have led nations and revolutions, created timeless artwork, or written words that changed the course of history. The institution’s alumni is also an acknowledgement of the hugely significant impact that these leaders subsequently had on the world, and a feeling that their like will not be seen again. Many of their legacies are instrinsically intertwined with the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa and on the African continent in general, and live on today in the hearts and minds of citizens in each country, long after their passing.
Looking back at the University of Fort Hare’s alumni through history is remarkable given its challenging and turbulent history and the profoundly damaging impact of the apartheid regime in South Africa. How many other such institutions in the region can proudly count seven African presidents amongst its alumni, all emerging from the institution equipped to take on the mantles of political leadership in their own countries. These included South Africa’s inspirational Nelson Mandela; Botswana’s First President Seretse Khama; Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere; Zambia’s First President Kenneth Kaunda; Interim President of Uganda Yusuf Lule; President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe; and Kaizer Matanzima President of Bantustan Transkei.
President Mandela who studied Latin and physics there for almost two years in the 1940s, left the institution as a result of a conflict with a college leader, but its impact was significant during his time there and beyond. He later wrote in his autobiography that “For young black South Africans like myself, it was Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, all rolled into one.” Today, his legacy at the University lives on through The Nelson R Mandela School of Law.
It is fully committed to fulfilling the University of Fort Hare strategic mission which enjoins the School to provide world class legal education offerings and research outputs of high quality and excellence. Consistent with the values that Nelson Mandela represents, the Law School envisions itself as an institution in which the values of humanism, societal leadership, equality and excellence are enthusiastically embraced and celebrated by staff and students alike.