Fort Hare/South Africa Chronology

1892: Cape Franchise and Ballot Act raises property qualifications for voting.

1901: H. Isaiah Bud-Mbelle, a leader of Kimberly’s Mfengu community, proposes the Queen Victoria Memorial fundraising campaign to establish a university for Africans.

1903-05: 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 QVM programme.

1905: Planning begins in King William’s Town for developing a tertiary education institute for Africans.

1906: The Bambatha Rebellion is brutally crushed in Natal.

1912: South African Native National Congress formed, with J.L. Dube as its first president.

1913: Natives Land Act is passed, making it illegal for Africans to own or rent land outside designated reserves. The act set aside just 7 percent of the country’s land for Africans.

February 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.

1916-1923: As the South African Native College, Fort Hare is engaged in secondary school work, preparing students for the matriculation exam.

1919: Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union formed.

1923: Fort Hare is incorporated as a declared institution for higher education under the Higher Education Act of 1923.

25 January 1924: Z.K. Matthews becomes the first African to qualify for the degree of Bachelor of Arts of the University of South Africa.

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.

1935: Professor D.D.T.Jabavu founds the All African Convention to protest the attack on the African franchise.

1936: Representation of Natives Act removes Africans from Cape voters’ roll.

1936: Z.K. Matthews is appointed lecturer in anthropology and Bantu Law and administration.

1939-1945: Second World War provides the spark for many campus debates and has a tremendous effect on politicising the student body.

16 March 1940: Kaiser Matanzima is awarded the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Roman Law.

1941: Nelson Mandela leaves Fort Hare on principle after a disagreement with Principal Kerr over his serving on the Students’ Representative Council; Oliver Tambo is awarded the Bachelor of Science degree.

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 suspension and of future ANC President Oliver Tambo.

3 April 1943: Mandela, who completed his degree externally, is awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Native Administration and Politics degree.

1944: The ANC Youth League is formed and Anton Lembede is elected its first President.

1948: The National Party comes to power with its apartheid platform.

1948: Alexander Kerr retires and Clifford Dent of the Chemistry Department becomes Fort Hare’s second principal.

1948: A.P. Mda and Godfrey Pitje meet and establish a branch of the ANC Youth League at Fort Hare. It is prohibited by the university authorities, but gains prominence nevertheless as the Victoria East Branch of the Congress Youth League.

1948: Mangosuthu Buthelezi begins his studies at Fort Hare and joins the ANC Youth League.

1948: Robert Sobukwe speaks at the Completer’s Social on behalf of continuing students, providing the first glimpse of his political acumen.

1949: Sobukwe is elected Students’ Representative Council president.

21 October 1949: Sobukwe’s speech at the Completer’s Social on behalf of graduating students urges Fort Harians to build a new Africa. "Only we can build it," he says.

1950: Z.K. Matthews is elected vice-chairman of Senate, Fort Hare.

1950: Among others, Joseph Matthews and 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."

1950: 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.

1951: 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.

1951: Robert Mugabe is awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree.

1952: Fort Hare student body votes to disaffiliate with the National Union of South African Students.

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 had been called in from King William’s Town.

1955: Universities Act No. 61 includes Fort Hare among the universities of South Africa.

1955: The South African government begins looking into the feasibility of separate university facilities for non-Europeans.

1955: The Freedom Charter is adopted by the Congress of the People.

2 May 1955: The entire SRC resigns, charging the university senate with ignoring them.

1955: 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.

December, 1955: Z.K. Matthews is chosen as acting principal of Fort Hare.

1956: Treason trial of 156 defendants, including many Fort Harians, begins.

1958: With Matthews on trial for treason, H.R. Burrows is appointed Fort Hare’s fourth principal.

1958: SRC President Ambrose Makiwane leads a protest against the proposed Extension of University Education Bill. More than 300 staff members, students, and Alice community members march through the streets of Alice.

18 August 1958: The Extension of University Education Bill is passed, providing 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."

1959: Sobukwe founds the Pan Africanist Congress.

1959: The Fort Hare Transfer Act, Act No. 64 of 1959 is passed, providing for the transfer to the apartheid government of the university, once a constituent college of UNISA and subsequently an affiliate of Rhodes University.

1959: Seven staff members resign before 23 September. After the 23rd, Z.K. Matthews resigns his post and forfeits his entire pension three months before his intended retirement, in protest against the assumption of control of the university by the Department of Bantu Education. Others soon follow. By the end of 1959, three out of every four staff members has either resigned or been fired.

28 October 1959: Plaque is unveiled marking the "death of Fort Hare," reading, "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."

1959: A delegation of academics who were due to assume control of the university after the transfer visit Fort Hare. The students unleash a barrage of tomatoes on the incoming registrar.

1 January 1960: The government takes control of Fort Hare after making arrangements to do so from 1955 to1959, 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 an advisory one comprised of black staff. Professor J.J. Ross is the first government-appointed rector.

1960: Police kill 69 at Sharpeville; Sobukwe is sentenced to three years in prison; Oliver Tambo leaves the country to set up an ANC mission in exile; State of Emergency is declared; ANC and PAC are banned.

1961: 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.

1961: Chris Hani is involved in protesting against the creation of a Republic. The underground ANC calls for a three-day stay-away.

1961: ANC adopts armed struggle and Umkhonto we Sizwe is formed, with Mandela as chief of staff.

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. Amongst 23 others, Barney Pityana and Kenneth Rachidi are not allowed to come back.

1969: South African Students’ Organisation formed by Steve Biko.

1970: Fort Hare is granted autonomy, relinquishing its relationship with UNISA. Students now obtain Fort Hare degrees, but are upset over what they perceive as the "ghettoisation" of black education and vehemently protest this change. Once autonomy is granted, students continue wearing UNISA robes to graduation.

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, O.R. 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.

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.

1974: Worried that the Federal Theological Seminary, located on Fort Hare’s present-day East Campus, is being was run by "communists" and that it is having a negative impact on students, Fort Hare expropriates the seminary’s land, resulting in its closure.

1976: Following the Soweto Uprising, Fort Hare goes on extended holiday, reopening in October.

21 March 1980: Students stay away from classes to protest the impending "independence" of the Ciskei. By May, the university closes down.

1982: 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.

1986: Fort Hare goes from being a "bush college" to a bantustan college, as control is transferred to the Ciskei government; Sebe finally attends graduation as the "guest of honor."

1990: Bantu Education ends at Fort Hare. Sibusiso Bengu is appointed the first black principal of the university. Oliver 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."

1992: Following a bloodless coup, Brigadier Gqoza assumes control of the Ciskei government and sends his troops to Fort Hare to thwart student protest.

1994: Professor Mbulelo Mzamane assumes the rectorship as Professor Bengu takes up the post of Education Minister.

1996: Fort Hare celebrates its 80th anniversary in style as President Mandela and Miriam Makeba arrive on campus for the festivities.

1997: Fort Hare is closed down for two weeks due to student protest over fees.

1999: Independent Assessor Stuart Saunders issues a report charging Mbulelo Mzamane with misuse of university funds. Students, staff and workers resign not to return to work until the "3 M’s" are removed from office. On March 25th, 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.

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.

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.

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