Some suggested research topics for UCT

Letter from alumnus Graham McIntosh to the university's Alumni and Development Department

Text of letter from former MP and UCT alumnus Graham McIntosh to Dr Russell Ally, Executive Director of the  Alumni and Development Department, University of Cape Town, July 20 2015

Dear Mr Ally,

Because I was born in 1944 and I was at UCT and in residence in Smuts Hall from 1961-64, I have been considering, for the past year or three, the question of, in my Will, or before then, of making an endowment to UCT. My wife, who passed her MA at Tukkies, has always wanted to see a generous gift of money which may be in excess to the family’s requirements, to endow a chair or some academic cause at one of our South African universities.

I recently received, by both snail-mail and electronically, communications from your Alumni, Development and Legacy Departments. Further stimuli for a gift, was the report on Neville Isdell’s generosity (p23 of Alumni News). He and I served together on the Smuts Hall House Committee. You also featured in “[email protected]“, a donation by two of my cousins to remember their Mother and my Aunt, Marjorie McIntosh. Two other cousins, Neil (Architecture) and Evan (Social Sciences) Morkel were also at UCT.

Rene Nolte sent an email (1 June 2015) with a link to the May edition of the UCT Legacy Newsletter where there was an article by the Vice-Chancellor giving his version of the background to the Rhodes Must Fall agitation including the illegal occupation of the Bremner Building; there was an eight page pamphlet entitled “[email protected]”; there was the “UCT Alumni News”.

These three publications all give the sense that UCT is quite clearly extremely twitchy about the impact on potential donors of the removal of the Rhodes Statue. UCT should be, as I as a potential donor, explain below. The removal of the statue can be compared to the barbarism of ISIS in wanting to destroy the ancient artworks of the “kafirs” (Arabic for ‘infidels’). In this case the fundamentalists and iconoclasts were not ISIS but the racist left (well described in RW Johnson’s most recent book) whose race based social engineering masquerades as transformation. The precipitate process was also no credit to UCT.

The Senate apparently and almost unanimously, endorsed the removal of the statue. The meeting was attended by almost all the black academics, many, if not most of whom, are only rarely seen at Senate meetings. Those black academics know, that the usual absentees, almost certainly, attended the Senate Meeting out of fear. If they did not vote the way the militants wanted, they knew that they, especially as blacks, would be targeted as ‘sell-outs’ and be dealt with violently, as the COSATU unions and AMCU do with people they perceive as “scabs”.

They remembered the murder of Professor Brian Hahn (incidentally we were undergraduates together) and, if they are immigrants they saw the Xenophobia and Afrophobia (read Jonny Steinberg’s “A Man of Good Hope”) fully alive in our black townships.

If they are South Africans their memories, if not what they learnt in history, go back to Poqo (it is the same genre as the PAC and the anarchists who were allowed to abuse the Bremner Building, the Council and the staff of the University), the necklacings by the ANC, the killings in the St James Church (again the Poqo culture), Harry Gwala’s reign of terror in KZN (I was on a Peace Committee in Estcourt/Wembezi and saw it all at very close quarters), the “cleansing” in the 1980s by the IFP of Xhosa speakers on the Northern Natal coal mines (no Xhosa speaking Methodist minister would dare to accept an appointment to a circuit in Zululand at that time), the Msinga clan violence (Johnny Clegg -- now OBE, nogal -- wrote an important monograph on that violence), in the anti-Indian riots in January 1945, the Pedi-Shangaan tensions around Bushbuckridge.

Of course before the whites arrived as van Zyl Slabbert observed, many blacks believe that all the blacks “shared their grazing and babysat one anothers’ children”. President Jacob Zuma now sings in that silly choir.

The Council of the University also appears to have caved in. Max Price’s letter gives me little re-assurance around the handling of the matter. It will be interesting to see whether any of these students will be charged and punished by the University or criminally through the courts.

I am certainly one of those potential donors, who now wonders if they can trust the University of Cape Town to use the money that they donate in the way that they had in mind or whether UCT, will, by the use of sophistry and changing standards of political correctness or violent intimidation, decide that UCT knows better than the donor, how his legacy should be applied and remembered.

I have been privileged to be involved, but never fulltime, in good business, doing good. As a result, our family trust will probably be in a position eventually to be advised by the Trustees to make an eight figure donation to UCT. The growth of our family wealth is an affirmation of Max Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” and, that that ethic, brought liberty and prosperity, is reaffirmed in Niall Ferguson’s magisterial book, “Civilisation : the West and the Rest”. That potential donation is now, as a result of UCT’s handling of the Rhodes Must Fall agitation, in jeopardy.

Because I don’t trust the Vice-Chancellor, nor the frightened men and women who serve on the Senate, I am prepared to enter into negotiations with UCT, around the terms of use of the potential endowment. If those negotiations produce a result that is acceptable to the Trustees, then an endowment can happen although it is not imminent.

Before I suggest only some of the research and teaching projects that can be considered I should give a little background on my own career at UCT and why I am concerned to protect – in fact presently incandescent about protecting -- the values that I learnt at UCT and which I believe are under increasing threat.

My peer group as students, and who were politically alive, although I didn’t know them all closely, if at all and by sight only, but they were on the Campus, were Jonty Driver, Libby Robb, Ken Andrew, “Fiks’’ Bam, Ilse Fischer, Tim Wilson, John Clare, Adrian Leftwich, Stephanie Kemp and, for one year, Judy Todd, who was the daughter of Rhodesian politician, Garfield Todd.

I majored in Social Anthropology and English and did as much history as possible. I also took a Secondary Teacher’s Diploma. My first teaching post was at a small rural boys’ high school in Swaziland.

The lecturers that I greatly valued were Jack Simons, Monica Wilson (Social Anthropology) and Rodney Davenport (History). Dorothy Cavers was certainly conscientious and I loved the English language courses. Jack Simons, I discovered later, was a Stalinist, as was his trade unionist wife, Rae Alexander -- I wonder how they must be turning in their graves as statues of Lenin and Stalin are systematically toppled by the people who were oppressed through their evil ideology -- taught Comparative African Government and Law (nowadays not very politically correct!) but I was fascinated by the Xhosa/Nguni culture and his knowledge and empathy for its legalities. I never forget one sentence of his, and uttered in his rural Riversdale accent “Remember students, if you don’t have a history, you can always make one”. How true that was for the Communist Manifesto, which has no chapter on ethics!! I later discovered that his Mother was a Miss Morkel, as was mine, and all the Morkels (cricketers, rugby players and politicians) are descended from one ancestor who arrived in 1708!!

Professor Monica Wilson was a perfect academic – scholarly, extremely knowledgeable, humble, gentle but unbending in her principles. She came from a family that had rooted in the Eastern Cape and had brought education, the Christian faith and an unbending commitment to non-racialism, or multi-racialism as we then knew it. Her lectures on religion and witchcraft were riveting. Her son is Professor Francis Wilson.

Rodney Davenport was another professor (History) from the Eastern Cape and his humanity, scholarship and clear teaching set an incomparable standard for excellence in research, writing and teaching. His lectures on Jan Hofmeyr, who was a political contemporary of Rhodes, of course, and the Afrikaner Bond were utterly fascinating.

In my first year (1961 and I turned 17 in the January) I appeared on the front page of the Cape Argus, which was also syndicated to the Pretoria News -- I grew up in Pretoria -- standing in my academic gown on the Jammie Steps and holding a placard, to protest against the Separate Universities Act. I also joined the SAIRR (South African Institute for Race Relations) in my first year in 1961.

I was very involved in SHAWCO and on it’s Management Committee and I also helped run a Boy’s Club and a Sunday School in what was then the notorious squatter camp of Windermere. There I learnt to deeply respect the tough self-reliance of the people who live in them and be fascinated by informal settlements.

Every week and sometimes twice a week I used to travel to Langa High School (every visit required me to get a permit at the township Manager’s office!!) to help the SCA (Students Christian Association) later SCM and also to coach the rugby team. I played U19 rugby (Professor Brian Kantor and I were in the same U19AA team). With great difficulty in those apartheid times, I organised an annual multi-racial camp but I was determined that there be that statement and that we use, as leaders, white UCT students I remain in contact with two of the girls, who were our members in the SCA/SCM and are now grandparents, as I am, and live in Paarl and Butterworth.

The Dutch Reformed Church student chaplaincy and served by Ds Johan Heyns (who was assassinated by a right-wing killer in Waterkloof, Pretoria) invited Dr Verwoerd, who was a member of the Rondebosch congregation, to speak at a student squash (we were certainly squashed in!) at the parsonage after the evening service. I was fascinated but appalled by what Dr Verwoerd had to say. I then decided to join the Liberal Party so that I could put a stake in the ground and, as my personal statement, commit to a non-racial South Africa, not to Verwoerd’s racist ideology. I also joined Beyers Naude’s Christian Institute while at UCT.

So much for me, Mr Ally, so now the research projects.


I propose below the following subjects, in general terms, to be researched. There may be others that I may suggest. The academic departments or the individual students may wish to motivate an application for funding. Some may only require the time needed for an MA because there may already be research done in many areas and it may need ONLY ”refreshing” or collation or co-ordinating into an MA thesis.

Others may require work at PhD level.

The endowment, after consultation with the relevant Supervisor of Studies, should be a generous one to cover properly motivated (no Boesak/Danish and Manyi/Norwegian creative accounting!) costs, including travel within the RSA and to other countries, accommodation as well as accommodation away from the research student’s home base, etc.

Furthermore, I may wish to appoint a moderator, because of my present loss of faith in the liberal values and academic integrity of the academics of UCT, to be involved in approving the proposals from research students and the grants. I have in mind the South African Institute for Race Relations (www.sairr.org.za) and Good Governance Africa (www.gga.org), who publish ”Africa in Fact”, but I would need to get them to agree first. I must disclose that I serve on the Council of the SAIRR and on the SADC Board of the GGA.



Mandela and Holomisa are known not to be Xhosa names. Who was the Mundell from which “Mandela” is derived and the Holmes which is the source of “Holomisa”. Were they traders or teachers or missionaries and why were they so respected?

How did the Xhosa “Bothas” came to have that surname?

The Xhosas also translated names such as Mthimkhulu which was Grootboom (the well known Constitutional Court ruling on socio economic rights carries that name) and Ndlovu was Olifant.

The Bam family was a prominent Eastern Cape family and the former IEC Commissioner, Brigalia Bam and Judge Fikile Bam, are descendants. How did they come to acquire that name?

The grandfather of former President Mbeki gave his son the name of Govan, which was the surname of the founder of Lovedale and the man who took Tiyo Soga to Scotland to get a university education there.

A research project on this tapestry of interwoven culture through names, would be worthwhile.


Potjiekos is now a national tradition but for a traditional African homestead around 1800, the introduction of the three legged pot was a technological development as life changing as the cell phone is today.

Questions that could be addressed in the study are.

When were they first introduced and how were they distributed? Where were they first manufactured and where and when were they manufactured in South Africa for the first time and in what different sizes?

What did they cost to buy and was the desire for this domestic item not a motivation for traditional people to seek to enter the cash economy?

The ‘gelaman’ (after German Lutheran missionaries) or ‘shweshwe’ cotton print is part of Nguni culture but when did mass produced textiles come available and how? Shaka and Sekhonyela only knew skins, not cloth.


It is known that the Basotho were able to buy guns and horse bridles (steel bits) and indeed horses from the wages they earned on the diamond diggings and at Kimberley. As a result they could fight a war with the Free State Republic and on nearly equal terms.

The Glen Grey Act of 1894 of the Cape Colonial government introduced individual land holdings and taxes. Although a view was that it was a law to force tribesmen into the cash economy, were they not already keen to have cash to acquire guns and pots and ploughs.


People are often puzzled to realise that at around 1800 the total population of South Africa was estimated (guesstimated?!) to be around one million and maybe less.

A plotting of population distribution on a GPS basis every fifty years since 1800, could be a useful research project.

More research can be done into that but also the causes for the increase in population. Immigration, improved health, urbanisation are all factors.

Much of this work may already have been done. Professor Sadie of Stellenbosch comes to mind. Nonetheless, this could be a useful Master’s thesis study.


Tiyo Soga married a Scottish wife and he wrote to his sons (they had seven children)

 "For your own sakes never appear ashamed that your father was a “Kaffir” and that you inherit some African blood. It is every whit as good and as pure as that which flows in the veins of my fairer brethren…you will ever cherish the memory of your mother as that of an upright, conscientious, thrifty, Christian Scots woman. You will ever be thankful for your connection by this tie with the white race".

Although not common, there were numbers of formal marriages. These should be researched and recorded. Marriage registers in both churches and Magistrates Offices would record these formal marriages.

Many informal relationships also existed. The best known South African family is the Sisulu family where Walter Sisulu’s father was apparently the product of a relatively long-term liaison between a Xhosa woman and a white roads superintendent. There were many such liaisons and sometimes the two parties later separated and married husbands or wives of their own racial group. The Cape Mounted Police are also reputed to have fathered what became part of the coloured community of the Transkei. White traders in remote areas fathered children. The coloured Goss people of Pondoland are an example. The white Goss family still trade in Pondoland. In Natal the British soldiers and officers also played their part. Swaziland also has a coloured population which arose from miners and traders.

Shipwreck survivors also miscegenated. The occasional blue eyes found amongst some Pondo people are attributed to that.

A key institution for the coloureds of the Transkei and Natal was in Ixopo at the Little Flower High School and established by the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood. Research there could be helpful.

A DNA sampling along the lines of what the Origins Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand does, would be most interesting.


What role did “muti” play in encouraging a belief amongst the miners that they would be invincible when they faced the SAPS public order unit?

The man from Pondoland who was called by AMCU members to Marikana and who was a well-known “nyanga” was assassinated at his home before he could give evidence.

Were the body parts from the mutilated bodies of the murdered security guards supplied to this “nyanga” for use in the muti? Muti murders, the removal of body parts and the attacking and killing of witches is a regular occurrence in South Africa. The now deceased Khotso, who lived at Lusikisiki and claimed that his father was President Paul Kruger’s coach driver, supplied almost a “patent medicine” to Transkei miners to protect them from the dangers of working underground.


This school was a very well run and successful school. Professor Sakhela Buhlungu’s CV proudly mentions that he was a teacher there from 1983.

In City Press of 25 May 2013, there was an article on the burning and vandalism of this school.

Somebody needs to do research into why South African youth in so many areas destroy that kind of facility. Is it the propaganda of the anarchist left or is it ”the heart of darkness”? In other words, is it ideological, and a residual of the ANC’s policy of “ungoverneabillty” or the same culture that infuses the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign, taxi violence, COSATU’s culture of violence, the protests against poor municipal service? Is there no leadership amongst the youth that has the moral courage to oppose the violent boys or are they too frightened of being attacked and even killed because the punishments meted out by our courts are too mild?

We need to unpack this, especially after a generation has passed since 1994.

Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, as an academic sociologist, has a special responsibility in this area.


It is well known that incursions of Zulu impis went as far as the Northern end of Lake Malawi. The Ngoni people still wear the ‘bheshu’, to the slight amusement of their fellow Malawians, just as the English find the Scottish kilt quaint.

They also went into what was called Barotseland.

When another tribe of Africa, the Boers, broke Mzilikazi’s (uKhumalo) power, he retreated to what we now know as Matabeleland where he terrorised the Shona.

It would be interesting to do a study to see if this set of linkages could help to build solidarity and more unity within the SADC region.


For many professionals in the health sector it is a puzzle why well proven public health principles were not applied to HIV/AIDS. Instead a human rights baggage has been appended to HIV/AIDS, which, from a public health perspecive, is curious and contradictory compared to the way in which other venereal diseas are treated.

Somebody needs to do a study to see whether the human rights elements around HIV/AIDS have made treating the disease and other conditions, more difficult. Any patient needs to disclose whether they have diabetes, high blood pressure etc., but their HIV/AIDS status may not be disclosed. How many lives have been lost and how many more could have been saved if there had not been this exceptional human rights condition attached. Maybe it is as many as those caused because of Thabo Mbeki’s denialism and Mandela’s lethargic response.

A research project is needed.


The absence of a death penalty clearly infuraites the South African public. Furthermore, the communities are killing people that they perceive to be thieves, witches and murders.

To prevent these extra-legal killings, would it not be better to have a due legal process.

Although a legend among those who oppose capital punishment, is that a death sentence doesn’t reduce the murder rate, that legend needs to be interrogated in a society with our high numbers of murders and especially pre-meditated murder.

There should be proper scholarly research into what the effects of abolishing the death penalty has been on our homicide levels.


A prickly pear in isiZulu is “dorofia” and clearly from the Afrikaans, “turksvy”.

“molo” in isiXhosa is from “Môre” in Afrikaans. The Xhosa talk of “iwinkeli”, for a shop but in isiZul it is “isitolo”. Similarly soldiers in isiXhosa is ”amasosha” and in isiZulu “amasoldati”. East London is ”Emondi” and from the Afrikaans “mond” for the the mouth of the Buffalo River.

The Nguni-isation of words like “umbrella’to ‘sambulela’ and cigarette to ‘isikilidi’ are worth a study.

I will look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Graham McIntosh.