A Great Friend of the University - UFH pays tribute to Professor Francis Wilson 1939-2022
The UFH community is saddened by the death of Professor Francis Wilson, a great friend of the University. Prof Wilson died on Sunday evening. He and his family had a long-standing relationship with the University of Fort Hare, stretching back to his childhood, when his mother, the esteemed social anthropologist Monica Wilson, was the warden of Elukhanyisweni residence and a faculty member in social anthropology. His maternal grandfather, David Hunter was a missionary at Lovedale Mission.
Professor Wilson obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in physics from the University of Cape Town and a master’s degree in economics as well as a doctorate, both from the University of Cambridge.
He subsequently joined the University of Cape Town and in 1972 published a monograph, Labour in the South African Gold Mines, 1911-1969 with Cambridge University Press. The same year his seminal Migrant Labour in South Africa, South African Council of Churches and Spro-Case was published. In 1976 he founded the Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics. He was Director of SALDRU until 2001
As Director of the Second Carnegie Inquiry, Professor Wilson led a national process resulting in the major research conference of 1984, which focused on poverty and development. Subsequently, he and Mamphela Ramphele released the important Uprooting Poverty – The South African challenge: Report for the Second Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development in Southern Africa, which was published in 1989 by David Philip.
Despite his significant responsibilities, Professor Wilson remained committed to the Tyhume valley and the University of Fort Hare. In the critical and often turbulent years from 1990-1999, he served as Chairperson of the post-apartheid University of Fort Hare Council.
He and his brother, Tim Wilson, were instrumental in ensuring that the University acquired, on highly favourable terms, a section of the Hunterstoun estate in Hogsback, which the University still runs as a research and leadership centre.
In 2019, in recognition of his major scholarly contribution and true commitment to social justice in South Africa, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Fort Hare.
We extend our sincere condolences to his family –with his commitment and contribution to social change in South and Southern Africa, Professor Wilson leaves a lasting legacy.
His funeral will take place on Monday, May 2nd at 9:30 in Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral.