Student-led anti-apartheid campaigns and their South African Rectors

The Baton arrives today (10.02.2014) in its final African Commonwealth country, South Africa.

Although the University alumni links with South Africa go back to the early nineteenth century, it was during the twentieth century when South Africa drew and held the greatest attention of the student body. Within the space of 25 years, the students of the University had elected two South African Rectors as part of a sustained anti-apartheid campaign.

The first was Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli, who served as Rector from 1962 until 1965. He was widely admired for leading a non-violent campaign against apartheid in South Africa that also led to his Nobel Peace Prize.

Guardian 8 Feb 1963

Guardian 8 Feb 1963

However, his rectorship had to be carried out remotely due to being under house-arrest in South Africa.

Throughout the 70s and 80s the student body at the University continued with their involvement in anti- apartheid groups and protests. You just have to peruse the student newspaper, Guardian to find numerous articles on protests.

And so 25 years after Luthuli’s election, the students once again elected another leading figure in the anti-apartheid movement – Winnie Mandela.

Guardian 16 Oct 1986

Guardian 16 Oct 1986

The front page of the Guardian of 16 October 1986 confirms the news that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is running for Rector. Her nomination also came in the same year as the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment, and served as a focus for those campaigning in South Africa and abroad for the release of her then imprisoned husband and an end to apartheid.

Negotiations were led by the Glasgow University Labour Club, with the AA club promoting the rectorial campaign, which led to Winnie being elected Rector in 1987. She remained in her post until the end of the three-year term in 1990, despite controversy surrounding her actions and calls made for her resignation in 1989. The controversial figure of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, divorced from Nelson in 1996, was also to be the first woman Rector of the University as well as the second South African Rector.


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Filed under Africa, Commonwealth of Nations

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