Rhodes University Logo
Maxeke and Sontonga honoured at Rhodes
Rhodes > Student Affairs > Latest News

Maxeke and Sontonga honoured at Rhodes

Date Released: Tue, 19 September 2017 14:42 +0200

In line with the University’s transformation agenda and as a continued celebration of the cultural identity and geographical location of the University within Africa, South Africa and the Eastern Cape, the Rhodes Council approved the name change of a further two of their residences this week.

Jameson House, which was opened in 1921, will now be known as Mmakgano Charlotte Maxeke House while Piet Retief House has been re-named as Mankayi Enoch Sontonga House. 

Maxeke is one of South Africa's first black female graduates; the first woman to participate in the King’s court in Thembuland; the founder and president of the Bantu Women’s League and the first black woman to become a parole officer actively questioning the administration of justice against women and children. She also founded an employment agency for Africans in Johannesburg, catering to the needs of former political prisoners.

In 1901 aged 30, Maxeke received her B.Sc. degree from Wilberforce University in the United States where she was taught by Pan-Africanists and received an education focused on developing the literacy and quality of life of the African people.

Mankayi Enoch Sontonga wrote and composed the South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikelela iAfrica in 1897, a prayer for God's blessing on the African land and its people. The song was originally written for his school choir.

Born in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape in the late 1800s, he died at the age of 32. He was trained as a teacher at Lovedale College, and went on to become a choirmaster, an amateur photographer, a distinguished poet and a composer.

Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrika had become the official song of the African National Congress (ANC), Zambia adopted it as its national anthem, Tanzania translated it into Swahili, “Mungu ibariki Afrika”, and adopted it as its national anthem. It was also widely sung in the Shona language in Zimbabwe. 

The re-naming committee, constituted as a joint committee of Senate and Council in 2010, has been responsible for over 20 structural name changes within Rhodes University over the past few years, responding to the necessary processes of re-naming new and old buildings, facilities, academic units and structures.

To date, South African and international struggle icons that have been honoured at the University include Ellen Nnoseng Kuzwayo, Walter Sisulu, Rosa Parks, Ruth First, Joe Slovo, Victoria Nonyamezelo Mxenge, Adeilade Tambo, Helen Joseph, Robert Mmangaliso Sobukwe, Chris Thembisile Hani, Mankayi Enoch Sontonga, Mirriam Zenzile Makeba, Lillian Masediba Ngoyi, Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela, Desmond Mpilo Tutu and Steve Bantubonke Biko, among others.

“The premise of this work is compatible with our transformation pursuits and the values of human dignity, non-racialism and non-sexism enshrined in the South African Constitution. These name changes are collective small steps to promote the redress of past imbalances and a celebration of the cultural identity and geographical location of the University,” said Dr Stephen Fourie, the Registrar and chairperson of the Committee.

Existing names, particularly of residences and halls, are subject to a process of internal reflection and review, in the light of the objectives concerning naming.

The Naming Committee reviews its policy every three years. Any proposed changes to the policy shall be referred to Senate and Council for approval.

Source:Communications