Professor Harry Ranwedzi Nengwekhulu

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Harry Ranwedzi Nengwekhulu

Synopsis:

Founder member and SASO permanent organizer, Turfloop SRC president, IUEF representative in Botswana, Acting Superintendent-general of the Eastern Cape department of education.

Title: 
Professor
First name: 
Harry
Last name: 
Nengwekhulu

Harry Ranwedzi Nengwekhulu’s activism in the struggle began in the 1960s. Nengwekhulu alongside Steve Biko and others broke away from National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) and formed the South African Students Organization (SASO) in July 1968. At its launch of Nengwekhulu was elected as the permanent organizer. After his election, he was in charge of the Reef SASO (REESO) Local Brach in Johannesburg which had student affiliates at the University of South Africa and other institutions in the Transvaal. 

He was elected as president of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at the University of the North (known as Turfloop). When students at University of Fort Hare went on strike to protest against the refusal by the rector to recognize the University Christian Movement (UCM) on 27 August 1968, several of them were expelled. In response, students at Turfloop protested in sympathy and solidarity to the expulsion of their counterparts at Fort Hare. Consequently, Nengwekhulu, who was the SRC president and numerous other students were expelled from the university. This sparked more anger among the students and which fuelled more protests.

In March 1973, together with Steve Biko, Barney Pityana and five other BCM leaders, he was slapped with a five year banning order by the government. He was forbidden from meeting with one or more people at a time and he was not permitted to publish or be quoted.

In the aftermath of the violent crackdown on the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) by the government, some of the activists fled the country to exile. Negwekhulu was the first senior person of the BC to leave South Africa in September 1973 crossing into Botswana. Once in exile he established close links with Sweden. Faced with a growing need to cater for the growing number of BCM activists in exile, he forged links with the International University Exchange Fund (IEUF). This was to obtain scholarships for exiled BCM members. Between 1974 and 1976 he visited Sweden to mobilize more funds, for example in March 1974 and in December 1976.

Nengwekhulu was also instrumental in setting up meetings between the African National Congress (ANC) and Steve Biko.

In February 1977 the Black People’s Convention (BPC) held an extraordinary congress in Durban where the secretariat for external affairs was established. Biko was elected as honorary life president and Nengwekhulu was elected in absentia as director general of the secretariat. That same year he was mandated by the BPC leadership to set up an office in Botswana. It was from the office that literature for BCM related youth organizations was organized and sent for distribution.

After the democratic elections in 1994, Negwekhulu served in the government. He was appointed as the Acting Superintendent-general of the Eastern Cape department of education. He was awarded the Outstanding Educator in South Africa award by UNISA.


References:
• ANC, (1961), International University Exchange Fund, its Rise and Demise, from the African National Congress, 25 November, [online] available at www.anc.org.za[Accessed 02 February 2012]
• Sellström, T, (2002), Sweden and national liberation in Southern Africa: Solidarity and Assistance, Volume 2, (Stockholm), pp.545-546
• Mzamane, M.V, Maaba B & Biko N, (2006), The Black Consciousness Movement in The Road to Democracy in South Africa 1970-1980, Volume 2, (UNISA), p. 109, 153, 382.
• Barney Pityana, Interview by Tor Sellström, 23 January 1997, from the Nordic Documentation on the Liberation struggle in Southern Africa, [online] available at http://www.liberationafrica.se[Accessed 02 February 2012]
• Gerhart, G.M, (1978), Black power in South Africa: the evolution of an ideology Perspectives on Southern Africa (University of California Press), pp. 261, 270, 284.
• Mashabela, H, (1987), A people on the boil: reflections on June 16, 1976 and beyond, (Skotaville Publishers), p.145.  

Last updated : 15-Feb-2012

This article was produced for South African History Online on 03-Feb-2012