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April 10, 2014

UCT’s Role in the Struggle

The University of Cape Town is an institution in Cape Town and South Africa. The campus is known equally for its majestic beauty, its world class educational facilities and its amazing student life.

UCT, image courtesy of Eric Nathan

The University is the highest ranked African university and 141th globally on the QS World University rankings and 126th in the 2014 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

But the University also played a role in the struggle against apartheid and the fight for freedom in South Africa. Many notable anti-apartheid activists attended the University, and the University has a strong connection with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

During the apartheid era, roughly 1960-1990, many UCT students consistently opposed apartheid and the university was a place of freedom and of liberalism. According to SA History, UCT was one of the most important platforms for effective anti-government protest. NUSAS, the most radical and effective resistance to the regime, operated out of UCT, making it a prominent launchpad for local protests.

UCT was also where the entire national movement was coordinated from and the location of the first sit-in in South African history. Furthermore, UCT was a fertile think tank for 'new left' ideologies, which it systematically deployed into the mainstream of national student politics. SA History also notes that UCT stands out as an important case study for the development of effective and radical student protest.

There are several notable leaders on the South African landscape who have attended the University who have contributed to the freedom of South Africa. Among them Mamphela Ramphele, leader of Agang, a managing director of the World Bank and formerly the Vice-Chancellor of UC; Dullah Omar, a South African anti-Apartheid activist, lawyer, Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and a minister in the South African cabinet from 1994 until his death; Justice Albie Sachs, of the Constitutional Court of South Africa; and Donald Woods, a South African journalist and anti-apartheid activist.

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