Evaluation of UFH’s readiness to be declared a UNESCO Nelson Mandela Legacy World Heritage Site commences

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Mr Charles Akibode from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sakhela Buhlungu engaged in deep deliberations.


The process to evaluate the University of Fort Hare’s (UFH) readiness to be declared as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Nelson Mandela Legacy World Heritage Site has commenced.

This moment of history in the making was marked by a visit by Mr Charles Akibode, an expert from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the conservation of the world's monuments and sites which is an advisory body to UNESCO.

The site visit to the University’s Alice campus took place last Friday, 4 August 2023.

This great African University was nominated for this significant global recognition in 2016 when it celebrated its 100 years anniversary. It is among ten national locations that are significant and attached to Nelson Mandela’s values which are anchored on the principles of human rights, liberation and reconciliation, that are nominated for this global recognition.

The 10 sites are:

  1. Constitutional Hill
  2. University of Fort Hare & ZK Mathews’s House
  3. 16 June 1976 – The Streets of Orlando West
  4. Lilliesleaf
  5. Mqhekezweni
  6. Ohlange
  7. Sharpeville
  8. Union Buildings
  9. Waaihoek
  10. Walter Sisulu Square  

According to Mr Akibode, the main purpose of the technical evaluation missions is to make an on-site evaluation of the conditions of Integrity and Authenticity; the State of Conservation, the Factors Affecting the Property, the Protection and Management Systems; the Boundaries of the nominated property and its Buffer Zone; and the Interpretation and Presentation of the site and its Visitor and Tourism strategies.

Mr Akibode explained the role of ICOMOS and presented an in-depth report on the technical evaluation's expectations.

The process is expected to take 16 months to complete from the date the organisation received the nomination from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, which was in March.

“The visit will be followed by a desk review, a report written by an expert either on the significance of a property nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List or on specific issues as cultural tourism management, risk preparedness at site level, and protection and management aspects,” explained Mr Akibode.

Several crucial steps will be carried out during the process, the central part being the ICOMOS Panel which decides the corporate view of the organisation that is presented to the World Heritage Committee. The process will culminate in a final report to be presented to the World Heritage Committee.

The formal programme for the  visit was held at Senate Chambers. An esteemed delegation representing various stakeholders including the University’s management led by the Vice-Chancellor Prof Sakhela Buhlungu; the National Heritage Council, the South African Heritage Resources Agency; Department of Sports, Arts and Culture; the Imingcangathelo traditional house, Raymond Mhlaba Municipality and the Student Representative Council were in attendance.

The programme included a presentation prepared by the UFH National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre which provided a deeper understanding on the origins, land ownership and boundaries of the University.

Delegates were taken on a tour of some of the University’s historic sites, such as Freedom Square where the Stewart, Livingstone and Henderson Halls are located and where the Tambo and Sobukwe walks connect. The tour proceeded to the Christian Union Building, then the Old Fort ended at the Original Dining Hall.