It’s time for Tuks to get a new name

Jafta Masemola
Jafta Masemola

Dear Professor Tawana Kupe, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Pretoria

Let me start by congratulating you and wishing you the best of luck on your recent appointment at the helm of this respectable institution of higher learning, the University of Pretoria.

Within a few days in office, you have shown that you are a decisive man, irrespective of whether the decision was welcomed by many or not.

With many activities lined up in the remaining eight months, it is clear that this year will be bloated with lots of changes, astonishments and critical debates.

It is a year of change.

It is against this inspired confidence that I submit to you my recommendation that the university name be changed to the University of Jeff Kgalabi Masemola or University of JK Masemola.

I found it most relevant and timeous that I engage you during this freedom month and a month full of remarkable historical activities in our country.

I found it befitting that we honour the man who spent 26 years on Robben Island – almost equal the jail time served by Nelson Mandela – by changing the name of your higher learning institution.

Masemola, also known as Bra Jafta or Bra Jeff, was killed on April 17 1990, after spending only six months on the outside after his release from jail.

He died before even casting his first democratic vote.

He suffered the same colonial and apartheid fate as Solomon “Khala” Mahlangu, chief of the Lebelo group of the Ndebele Johannes Jane Tane Kekana, Christiana Khabe and Chris Ngwenya of the Inkatha Freedom Party, and many more who succumbed to unnatural deaths.

Masemola, who was known as “The Tiger of Azania”, deserves more than having a street named after him.

He was born, raised and fought as an anti-apartheid activist in the Tshwane area.

Your university is the most relevant symbol – particularly because Bra Jafta was an academic himself – to remind the future leaders of this country about our fearless historical heroes.

Andries Pretorius, who the university is named after, can now fall and be replaced by Masemola.

Prof, you have already made history by being the first black vice-chancellor and principal of the institution since it was established.

By renaming the university, it will afford you another opportunity to rewrite the apartheid and colonial legacy at this institution.

After 25 years of democracy, we still have hard-working students who graduate from your university, particularly black, who pride themselves with their qualifications written in the name of Andries Pretorius, a man who died 166 years ago.

It’s a worldwide norm that organisations and governments name buildings after people – living or dead – to commemorate their lives and legacy.

This month we mark the 29th anniversary of the death of Bra Jeff. We urge your institution to consider honouring this historic figure whose life contributed to humanity.

I trust you will take into consideration that this country, like most former colonised countries, is forced to correct the legacy of oppression and colonialism irrespective of the pace or costs incurred.


Simion Mokwena

. Mokwena is an employee of a state agency and a master’s candidate at Unisa

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