Cape Town – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is expected to be among the guests celebrating the centenary of the University of Fort Hare this Friday, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said.
As a graduate of the university, which opened in 1916, he would be joined by President Jacob Zuma and other still-to-be announced leaders of African countries.
Zuma would deliver the keynote address and Mugabe would speak as an alumnus. South African musicians, including Nathi, Ringo Madlingozi, and the Mahotella Queens were expected to perform.
The university was originally known as the South African Native College. Many of the country’s political elite such as Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, and Mangosuthu Buthelezi studied there. Others included artist Ernest Mancoba and poet Dennis Brutus.
It changed to a college for Xhosa speakers when the National Party government took it over between 1959 and 1960, the university says on its website.
In a statement on Wednesday, Radebe said it was a place where African people could meet and draw strength from each other.
The university is expected to be repaired and restored by various government departments as part of the centenary. The Department of Arts and Culture has started #MyFortHare to encourage people to tell their stories about the institution.
However, it might not be all champagne and congratulations as threats of student protests increased and the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF)opposition party objected to the visit.
ZPF’s interim co-ordinator in South Africa, Builder Lawrence Mavhaire, reportedly urged the University to withdraw the invitation. He believed Mugabe had embarrassed former graduates through his alleged human rights abuses.
Mugabe visited South Africa in April 2015 and delivered a lengthy off-the-cuff speech which included a warning to not “oversmoke”.