Renaming at UCT: Some suggestions

Graham McIntosh responds to the invitation from VC Mamokgethi Phakeng

24 November 2021

“Ful ofte in game, a sooth I have, hears saye!” Chaucer 1390. ---  “Don’t be angry with this fellow, I protest that many a true word hath been spoke in jest” (Roxburghe Ballads Edition 1847). --- “Many a true word is spoken in jest”. (Eminem 1 May 2018).

Hello my lovely Kgethi.

I enjoy your welcoming informality in your “From Kgethi” invitation for proposals for the Renaming of places and spaces on our Upper Campus in your 17 November UCT Newsletter.  I grew up with khuleka (wait politely) and thakazelas (honorific clan names) but I am adapting to your present politically correct, if new for me, cultural style.   

I majored in Social Anthropology under Professor Monica Wilson who taught me the significance and value of culture and customs in our societies.  I thus recognise different cultural practices and treat all of them with respect.  I love your friendly portrait – ‘Ntombi elihle’ (lovely lady), as our healthy and active former President, and unrivalled national ‘soga’ (Casanova), Jacob Zuma, immediately would have noted.

I do want to thank you for you graciousness and transparency in asking your University educated community (all of us, happily, don’t have only a matric exemption) “to think deeply about who and what the University represents” as we make proposals to your NoBC (Naming of Buildings Committee).  I have already made my three brief submissions and thank you for acknowledging, digitally, the receipt of them. 

I am fully qualified to comment on what UCT “represents”,  because I am an Alumnus (1961-1964) of the University and thankful for the education I enjoyed there.  You know that it was founded in 1829 (Karl Marx was only a boy of eleven) and that you serve in the shadow (isithunzi) of an extraordinary tradition of leadership and service of the Principals and then VC (Vice-Chancellor) who came before you. 

I certainly often “think deeply“ about UCT.  The important discipline for training one to think, is, of course, Philosophy. My one year of Philosophy was sitting at the feet of Professor Andrew Murray (1962) and he stretched my mind to train me to value rationality.  Your very own Professor of Philosophy is the eminent David Benatar whose most recent book has reminded us of the roots and importance of our great institution. 

Have you read his book, Kgethi?  To make it easier for busy people to keep up to date there is a short review by William Gild and published on Politicsweb.co.za and coincidentally on the same date as your newsletter.

But let me get back to the NoBC to whom I have suggested names for each of the three localities you have nominated for naming in Smuts Hall, Madiba Circle, Jameson Plaza.  I want to expand on my reasoning and also to suggest other names that you could pigeonhole for future use around our University. 

On SMUTS HALL, no change.  Anybody, including myself, who reads of Smuts’ intellectual and other achievements cannot escape without a sense of awe and astonishment.  South African soil produced one of the great leaders, intellects and soldiers of the Twentieth Century. 

All South Africans can be proud of Smuts and UCT should be as well.  Those wanting to airbrush him out of history must have deep inferiority complexes, if they have even read anything about the man.  I have seconded a Motion to go before the Convocation meeting in December 2021 on the matter.

MADIBA CIRCLE should honour the eminent and gentle Professor Bongani Manyosi and be known as Manyosi Circle.  He was so deeply distressed and depressed by the violent conduct of the Rhodes Must Fall leaders in Andile Mngxitama and Julius Malema that he took his own life on 27 July 2018.   

Honouring a fine academic, who died so tragically, is what UCT should do.  A plaque with suitable wording must recognise his outstanding academic achievement as well as mention why he took his life.  Including the names of the Rhodes Must Fall instigators on the plaque should also be considered.

JAMESON PLAZA should be named Helen Zille Plaza.  She helped, as a Rand Daily Mail journalist, to expose that Steve Biko died from being assaulted and tortured by the Special Branch in Port Elizabeth. In 2009 she ran the DA Election campaign with the “Stop Zuma” slogan. 

She was an outstanding Mayor of Cape Town and the first female Premier of a Province. She led the Western Cape, where UCT is located, to become a model of good governance.  Furthermore, her prominent role in the DA’s achievements, in the most recent Local Government Elections, is “the writing on the wall” that is terrifying the SACP/ANC as it did Belshazzar when Daniel interpreted the writing to him that “God has numbered his days and he has been weighed and found wanting”. 

To have been such a dogged, determined, damsel over all these years deserves recognition. She has no interest in and does not need to be patronised by “genderists”.  She has intellectual muscle which UCT should applaud. Her most recent book, “#Stay Woke” is not the only book that she has written and, as a journalist she is and has been a prolific wordsmith. 

Four more names that I would like to suggest for the NoBC to consider using at some stage are Reverend Tiyo Soga, Professor Jack Simons, Professor Monica Wilson and Prophet Nongqawuse. 

Reverend Tiyo Soga was an extraordinary intellect and was recognised as such by William Govan the first Principal of Lovedale College in Alice, Eastern Cape.  Soga was sent to Scotland for university education, where he excelled and found his Scottish wife.  He returned to the Eastern Cape but died young from tuberculosis. 

He is a fine role model for any student striving for excellence, as you seem to have done in your own academic career, and much more appropriate for a fine academic institution, than the curious choice of Sarah Baartman Hall.  Her Memorial in her Hankey Mission Station is the appropriate place to honour her.  Sadly it is uncompleted and probably a victim of the ANC’s incompetence and ubiquitous tender corruption.

Prof Jack Simons lectured me in CAGL (Comparative African Government and Law) in 1961.  A memorable comment in his thick Afrikaans accent (at his funeral Charles Nqakula reminded people of his humility and that he often described himself as simply a “plaas japie” from Riversdal), to our class on one occasion was, “Remember students that if you don’t have a history, you can always make one”. 

Maybe it is this Marxist Revisionism that NoBC embraces.  Hopefully you don’t, Kgethi.   He was a member of the KGB, was awarded the Lenin Prize for loyalty to the Soviet Union, was a teacher of Marxism-Leninism in the ANC/MK camps in Africa including Solomon Mahlangu in Tanzania and the notorious Quattro in Angola.   

We were also blood-related as our Mothers’ surname was Morkel.  All the Morkels in Southern Africa are descended from one male ancestor, Philip Morkel, who came to the Cape in 1708 as a worker for a global company bigger than Microsoft, namely the Dutch East India Company. UCT should recognise Jack Simons in some way.

Professor Monica Wilson was a superb teacher, academic and researcher and a pioneer in being a female in that position.  One of her sons is Emeritus Professor Francis Wilson who has done important work and research around poverty.  Dr Tim Wilson is the other son and he married Ilse Fischer -- she and I were fellow students -- whose father was Bram Fischer, who, like Jack Simons, was a Communist.

The fourth person and a black female, for the NoBC to consider recognising is Nongqawuse from Centane, Eastern Cape whose visions and prophecies generated the Xhosa cattle killing 1856-7 and resultant famine and impoverishment of that part of population of the Eastern Cape Colony.  Some have wittily suggested that our present day Nongqawuse is the blackouts from ESKOM arising from the ANC’s visions and delusions.

I know that you, with your commitment to transparency and consultation, will not object that this correspondence is regarded by me as an “open letter”.

Sinifisela nhlanhla (Alles van die beste),

Graham McIntosh


Renaming of upper campus places and spaces
17 November 2021
Dear colleagues, students and alumni
The naming of places and spaces across our campuses is an opportunity to think deeply about who and what the university represents.
In 2018 we renamed Jameson Hall to Sarah Baartman Hall. This was a moment in which the university could recognise the multifaceted struggles and resilience of South African women. In June 2021 Council deliberated and approved a recommendation of the Naming of Buildings Committee (NoBC) to change the name of Smuts Hall, the student residence on upper campus, and decided that in the interim the name Upper Campus Residence will be used until such a time that the process of determining a new name is formally concluded.
I now invite you to participate in the process of renaming this residence, along with two other spaces which are located at the heart of upper campus.
All proposals that we receive will be considered by the Naming of Buildings Committee (NoBC). In addition to making recommendations to Council about the naming or renaming of any building, space, room or lecture theatre on campus, the NoBC maintains a register of the names of buildings and spaces and is responsible for promoting awareness of the reasons behind the names.
In addition to the new name for the Upper Campus Residence, the NoBC would like to hear your proposals for these two additional spaces:
The steps and plaza in front of Sarah Baartman Hall (currently Jameson Plaza). This part of our campus has been a gathering place for the university community for generations – from protests to graduation ceremonies, to social gatherings, festivals and meeting up with friends.
The plinth on Madiba Circle (previously, the location of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes). This commanding location foregrounds Sarah Baartman Hall, the plaza and steps and the two residence buildings.
Proposals may be submitted to the NoBC from today, Wednesday, 17 November, to Monday, 6 December 2021. Following this, the NoBC will recommend new names to Council.
The naming of places and spaces at UCT is an important process, which we do not take lightly. These names need to reflect the values of the many different groups that make up the UCT community. Renaming buildings and places allow us an opportunity to respond to both the past and the future of UCT and to reflect and honour our diversity and inclusivity.
I look forward to your participation in this important process.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng