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Alice, 26 June 2022 -- UFH VC and Principal Professor Sakhela Buhlungu today (26 June 2022) delivered a welcome message during the 67 Years of the Freedom Charter event which is currently underway at the University of Fort Hare.

Professor Buhlungu underscored UFH was the intellectual birthplace for liberation ideas and South African democracy, and today continues to preserve the rich history hosting and preserving the archives of various liberation movements. He encouraged youth, scholars and political organisations to revisit the archives which can serve as a historical compass for renewal.

He underscored the University’s renewal programme to restore the institution position as the cradle of African intellectualism and leadership, and also appealed to guests to close the gap between the original charter and the lived realities of South Africans.

Professor Buhlungu reflected on the historical role of the town of Alice as the epicenter of liberation and South African democracy.

“We have in a small but extremely important way as a town, university and province and played a role in the adoption of the Freedom Charter,” he said.

During his welcoming address, Professor Buhlungu paid homage to Professor Zachariah Keodirelang (ZK) Matthews – the architect of the Freedom Charter which gave way to South Africa’s constitution. 

Matthews a political activist but also alumnus and Acting Principal of the University of Fort Hare, and he was the institution’s first university-level graduate in 1924.  He later attended Yale and the London School of Economics, and returned to Fort Hare as a lecturer in 1936, where he occupied various senior posts over more than two decades.

In 1953, Professor Matthews proposed the idea of “a national convention (of all races)… to draw up a Freedom Charter for the democratic South Africa of the future.” The Freedom Charter is considered the founding document of a free South Africa. It forms the basis for the bill of rights included at the beginning of the country's 1996 constitution 30 years later.