Nations declare their support for UFH during National Prayer Service

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Clerics, politicians, business and civic organization leaders heeded to a clarion call made by the Eastern Cape Provincial Council of Churches (SACC: EC) and assembled on the University of Fort Hare’s Alice campus last Sunday, 12 February 2023, to pray for the University during a National Prayer Service.

The call by the Council’s provincial leader, Reverend Lulama Ntshingwa comes after assassination attempts against some senior managers at the University, including the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sakhela Buhlungu; the assassination of Mr Petrus Roets (UFH Head of Transport) in May last year; the assassination of Mr Mboneli Vesele (Vice-Chancellor’s Protector) last month and an incident where a staff member was found bound and gagged at his residence.

The purpose of the service was to pray for the protection and the safety of Prof Buhlungu and his management in their quest to uproot corruption and promote clean governance at UFH and to pray for the safety of those who are targeted and their loved ones.

Among the dignitaries that graced the event was the former President of Botswana, Dr Ian Khama who is the son of Sir Seretse Khama - one of our esteemed alumni; Ambassador Bridgette Motsepe the daughter of ABC Motsepe who is also an esteemed alumnus of the University; Dr Frank Chikane, South African civil servant, writer and cleric and; Bishop Paul Veryn who is the Minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

Also joining the service and declaring their support for UFH was UDM Leader, General Bantu Holomisa; the Deputy Speaker of the Eastern Cape Legislature, Mr Mlibo Qoboshiyane; Mayor of Raymond Mlaba Municipality, Councillor Nomhle Sango and the Deputy General-Secretary of the SACC, Reverend Mzwandile Molo.

Delivering the keynote address, Dr Khama, a former commander of the Botswana Defence Force said he always longed to set foot on the UFH soil where his father studied and was happy that his wish was granted during the occasion to pray for the University of Fort Hare.

“As much as we are happy to be here, we are aware of the challenges the VC and this University have been facing and wish to thank SACC: EC for inviting us to this service. It is shocking and totally unacceptable that the VC and the University  have been subjected to acts of criminality that seek to murder, harass and intimidate the University community, no one should endure what you have endured as an institution of learning.”

Addressing the VC, Dr Khama said: “Your determination to continue your vision and mission, undeterred in attaining a corrupt-free environment is commendable. It serves as an inspiration to all of us.”

Rev. Chikane strongly condemned the perpetrators of criminal and rogue activities at the University. “We cannot allow ourselves to be taken over by criminals. Taking on the VC and us is like taking on God himself.”

Rev Chikane encouraged the VC to remain steadfast in his quest. “Do not waver in this Decade of Renewal. What is happening here is what is happening in this country, we cannot have a situation where we extract from the government without adding value - we are heading for a failed state, and we must say No!” 

Pledging his message of support, General Holomisa said: “We were shocked to learn about the attempt on the VC’s life and saddened by Mr Vesele’s tragic loss of life and we offer our condolences to his family, friends and the greater community of Fort Hare. There is a general lack of rule of law in this country – the criminal justice system is absent. There seems to be a mafia state that resembles an underworld that is dedicating the direction of this country – this must be stopped. Thank you to the SACC: EC for calling us here to say no to this underworld way of doing things.”

“I would like to thank Prof Buhlungu for promoting the ethics of good governance at this institution. We cannot allow a situation where this historical university is used as a ferry point to obtain academic qualifications without writing examinations, this corrupt culture must be investigated,” said General Holomisa.

Bishop Verryn said the struggle against corruption should become a new mantra to all universities, especially the kind of corruption that is hidden in the dark. In this prayer meeting, I want to ask God for two things: firstly, the safety of this University so that it continues to be an instrument of light. We pray that the perpetrators of this nonsense are exposed. Secondly, I pray to God to knock on the doors of the plotters in the wee hours of the morning and call them to account.”

Qoboshiyane and Councillor Sango shared the same sentiments as they expressed their support for the VC and the University.

Qhoboshiyane urged the VC to surge forward knowing the route ahead is no plain sailing and that it was full of detractors. “We thank you for the courage to save this 107-year-old University with 16 500 students on board. We stand by you, without fear.”

The UFH Student Representative Council President, Siphokazi Mbalo also pronounced the students’ unwavering support for the VC and his management by strongly expressing their stance against corruption.  “The people who are destroying this University do not have the best interest of the University at heart, it is up to us to make that call and say NO to corruption,” said Mbalo.