“The University of Fort Hare is indeed a National Asset,” – President Cyril Ramaphosa

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It’s official. The University of Fort Hare (UFH) is the sole and permanent custodian of the African National Congress’ digitised archival materials.  

This commitment which was initially made 30 years ago was cemented on Sunday, 30th of October 2022, when the President of South Africa and the African National Congress (ANC), His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa and UFH Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sakhela Buhlungu signed an addendum to the initial memorandum of understanding  (MOU) that was signed between the two institutions.

The initial partnership was forged on the 26th of October in 1992 when late President Nelson Mandela convinced the ANC National Executive Committee that there was no better home than the University of Fort Hare to preserve the movement's rich history.

The original agreement was signed by Tata Mandela and the then UFH Vice-Chancellor Mr Sibusiso Bengu, entrusting the University to take care and preserve certain documents and archival materials relating to the affairs and history of the liberation movement.

The addendum signed by President Ramaphosa and Prof Buhlungu makes provision for what did not exist at the time of the initial agreement which is the digital depositing of archival material.

The preservation of the archival material spearheaded by the UFH National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (Nahecs) includes activities of digitising the archival material and developing a website to enable members of the public to access the material for purpose of academic research or general information.

The renewal of this commitment comes at a time when both the ANC and UFH are venturing on their separate journeys toward renewal.

Speaking at the historic event held at the De Beers Art Gallery on the Alice campus, the President reaffirmed the University’s standing of being a Great African University and being a pivotal vehicle in the liberation of the continent and the production of great leaders.

 “Our forebears dreamt of a free nation. They dreamt of us being people who will be able to govern ourselves based on the will of our people. A dream that was later captured in the Freedom Chapter. To achieve these dreams, our forebears required proper vehicles to attain these dreams.”

“The first vehicle was the formation of the ANC in 1912. The second vehicle was the establishment of the University of Fort Hare in 1916. This University is part of the history of the ANC, it became the intellectual home of the oppressed that fed the ANC with much-needed intellectual leaders. What we are doing here, cannot be separated from that history.

“The University of Fort Hare is indeed a national asset, more than that, it is indeed a heritage site,” said the President.

Prof Buhlungu said the partnership between the two institutions carries great importance.

“The ANC and UFH are historical institutions that are part of the tapestry of liberation, part of the tapestry of bringing about hope to people’s lives, especially black people.  It is essential that now, many years later, we are meeting here with the ANC to cement this partnership.”

“When the ANC decided to approach an institution back in 1992, there were so many universities in the country and they chose this one. They came to UFH because many leaders of the liberation movement came from here at a time they could not access other institutions. It made sense that they chose this University.”

Among the ANC collection persevered at Nahecs are artifacts from the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) - an educational institution established by exiled ANC members in 1978 at Mazimbu in Tanzania; Chris Hani’s boots; Govan Mbeki’s guitar and volumes of documents and letters.