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University of Fort Hare: History

Situated in the peaceful and historical Eastern Cape town of Alice on the former military station donated by the United Free Church of Scotland, Fort Hare has a long tradition of excellence and achievement of which it can be justly proud. This remarkable institution traditionally recognized as one of the prestigious universities on the continent of Africa, stemmed from the initiatives of the black elite and early twentieth-century white liberals, many of them clergy, and supported by many traditional Southern African leaders. Fort Hare came into existence in 1916 and is the oldest historically black university in South Africa. Throughout its existence, Fort Hare produced graduates from as far north as Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, who knew they were as good as the best. Many went on to prominent careers in fields as diverse as politics, medicine, literature and art.

Some alumni like Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Robert Sobukwe, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Ernest Mancoba, Dennis Brutus (an acclaimed poet), Can Themba (an accomplished journalist), the 23 year old Dr Louis Brown in South Africa, Robert Mugabe, Herbert Chitepo, novelist Stanlake Samkange and the first black Zimbabwean medical doctor, Ticofa Parirenyatwa are well-known. Eliud Mathu and Charles Njonjo are two of our better-known alumnus in Kenya.

Walk into this cosmopolitan university and you immediately experience the long-standing tradition of non-racism characterised by intellectually enriching and critical debate, an evident aspiration towards educational excellence and a vibrant social life. The blueprint for the transformation and repositioning of this legendary institution in the 20th century – the Strategic Plan 2000 and the subsequent Institutional Operating Plan– nurtures and builds upon this tradition. The objective of this internationally lauded corporate re-engineering plan is to make this university worthy of its rich inheritance. The interest of some of our students is motivated by this distinctly superior reputation.

For others it emanates from the remarkable liberation movement archival records kept at Fort Hare. We know that the unparalleled academic, cultural and emotional development experience Fort Hare offers does count a lot to some. Some of the key historical facts about UFH include:

  • It is a seed bed for African leadership and intelligentsia
  • Part of the liberation struggles on the African continent?
  • First Historically Black Institution in South Africa.
  • One of the first multicultural and multiracial Institutions in Africa
  • Produced the most influential alumni in politics, business, religion and other fields including statesman and Nobel Laureates.