“One of the key initiatives we are striving to achieve is to create a stronger sense of social inclusion within the University through the naming and re-naming of various spaces and buildings in which we live, study and work. The consultative manner in which this exercise is unfolding serves as a powerful signal of our collective commitment to build a University that is keenly aware of its past, and which is therefore poised to engage with itself to work out, for itself, a decolonial pose. This exercise will frame the University character in line with our foundational values of humanity and social justice.For us, the naming of buildings is more than symbolic change. Rather, it is about opening up spaces for much deeper self-reflection and contemplation, to drive the change we want to see at our university. It is at the centre of our intentions to foster a culture of social inclusion.” Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sibongile Muthwa

Our students have taken the lead in building a more inclusive institutional culture for Nelson Mandela University as part of the Naming and Renaming Project by submitting a list of new names for their residences following a series of consultative processes in Port Elizabeth.

The SRC led a series of consultations across all residences in 2017 and 2018. As a result, names of individuals whose values, achievements and characteristics that resonate with both the students and the ethos of the Mandela brand were selected.

The SRC cogently argues that when a university is named after Nelson Mandela, it’s buildings and spaces should carry names that align with its patron.

And so names in line with the naming criteria of the institutional Naming Policy, which emphasise our African identity and Eastern Cape roots, the need to redress the past and build towards on a better future, have been selected.   

It includes the likes of the Eastern Cape’s Sarah Baartman, whose resilience paints a painful picture of how women have been marginalised, and Lillian Ngoyi, who led the 9 August 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the apartheid government’s pass laws.

The list also includes the revolutionary Solomon Mahlangu, who sacrificed his life for the total liberation of this country; Charlotte Maxeke, a deeply religious social worker and political activist and Hector Pieterson, whose name and tragic death is synonymous with the 1976 Soweto uprising against the compulsory use of Afrikaans. 

It also includes the names of two former Mandela University students, Yolanda Guma and Claude Qavane, who were both instrumental in shaping the university during their short lives.

New names & former names

Claude Qavane residence – formerly Xanadu

Sarah Baartman residence – formerly Melodi

Solomon Mahlangu residence – formerly Unitas

Lilian Ngoyi residence – formerly Veritas

Hector Pieterson residence – formerly Letaba

Sol Plaatje residence – formerly Protea

Yolanda Guma residence – formerly Oceana

Charlotte Maxeke residence – formerly Lebombo

The Naming and Renaming Programme Launch

Nelson Mandela University officially adopted its new name on 20 July 2017. This name change presented the Nelson Mandela University with an ideal opportunity to revisit the names of existing buildings, streets, campuses and other named features and components at the University.

On the 27th May 2019 the Vice Chancellor Prof Muthwa launched the Naming and Renaming Project at the University’s indoor sport centre.

In her speech Prof Muthwa indicated that the Naming and Renaming Project was a very important transformational and identity building programme of the University.

“Changing the names of buildings or creating new names where none existed is a seemingly frivolous activity when the University is facing other major challenges. Yet names are a visible and tangible link between teaching and learning and institutional identity”

Guests at the launch were welcomed by the melodic jazz sounds of Temba Ncetani and his band.  Coupled to the event was the launch of the renamed PE student residences. Special guests after whom the residences were named were present. These honoured guests included, the mother and sister of the late Hector Pieterson, the nephew of Lilian Ngoyi, Chief Lukas Mahlangu and nephew Gideon Mahlangu, mother and son of the late university student leader, Yolanda Guma, student leader Claude Qavane’s family and “direct” descendants of Sol Plaatje. Also present was a family member of the Maxeke family who delivered an address at the residence dinner event that evening. A performance relating to the renamed residences was rendered showing the iconic name changes.

Various speakers  shared their messages of support of the  Naming and Renaming Project, namely; Bulelani Blaauw, SRC deputy president, a member of the Mahlangu family, Mr Gideon Mahlangu. Vice-Chancellor Prof Sibongile Muthwa delivered the keynote address

Prof Muthwa stated the following

"The Key to the creation of social cohesion is the belief that appropriately named spaces at our University creates a sense of inclusion, provides a sense of purpose and a deeper spiritual connection to our African project our African mission."

She went on to say

"The process is much more than the replacement of a sign, or the erection of a new place name. Rather, it should be embraced as an opportunity to redress the past, learn from one another, be educated, reach a deeper understanding of others and of ourselves as we seek mutually-acceptable names that also align with the values of Mandela, and our African heritage."

The event ended off with a vote of thanks done by Ms Siphokazi Tau and an upbeat performance by the Nelson Mandela University choir as the guests left the venue.

Residence Project Media Gallery

Solomon Mahlangu
A hero of the revolution, freedom fighter Mahlangu was dedicated to the emancipation of his people and died a martyr to his cause.

A trained uMkhonto we Sizwe cadre, he was sentenced to death following the 1977 Goch Street shootings In Johannesburg involving police, Mahlangu and fellow soldiers Mondy Motloung and George “Lucky” Mahlangu.

Charged under the Terrorism Act and with two counts of murder, Mahlangu was unable to escape his fate, and was hanged in 1979.

Mahlangu’s death intensified international anger against the apartheid government in South Africa. Read more...


Claude Qavane
Young apartheid activist and politician Qavane was deeply respected for his lifelong dedication to inclusive, non-racial and quality education for all.

An “organic intellectual”, he achieved staggering success in shaping transformation both at his alma mater, Vista University (now part of Mandela University), and as a leading figure in debates around the formulation of the Higher Education Act.

A past president of the South African Students Congress (SASCO) and ANC Political Education and Training Unit member, Qavane left a legacy to all students whose lives have been changed by his commitment. Read more...

Yolanda Guma
A leading light in academic and political circles, student activist Guma made an indelible difference in the lives of ordinary South Africans.

She was dedicated to uplifting fellow students and serving her community.

Headhunted by the ANC Eastern Cape provincial office, she was personal assistant to the ANC provincial secretary while enrolled at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (now Mandela University) for her Honours degree in Public Administration and Management before her untimely death in 2015.

Guma, through her student organisation work and studies, had committed her life to helping others. Read more...

Sarah Baartman
South Africa’s foremost Khoisan heroine, Baartman became an enduring symbol of colonial oppression.

Sold into slavery at a young age, she was lured into an employment ‘contract’ which saw her shipped to England to work as a domestic servant – and be exhibited to the public.

European audiences were fascinated by Baartman’s large buttocks and unusual skin colouring, nicknaming her the ‘Hottentot Venus’.

Baartman never returned home alive. Her remains were finally reinterred in the Eastern Cape in 2002.

Hers is a story that should never be forgotten. Read more...

Hector Pieterson
Few images capture as powerfully the courage of student anti-apartheid activism than the black-and-white photograph of dying Soweto school boy Hector Pieterson.

Taken by news photographer Sam Nzima during the Soweto Uprising on 16 June, 1976, it has become a global symbol of resistance – and a reminder of the sacrifice and bravery of thousands of pupils and students dedicated to upholding their basic rights to freedom and education.

June 16 is now observed as ‘Youth Day’ in honour of the children and teenagers who rose up against their government. Read more...

Charlotte Maxeke
Pioneering academic and principled, fearless leader, Maxeke was one of South Africa’s first black women graduates.

Fighting on two fronts – politics and education – she co-founded the Bantu Women’s League, which later became the ANC Women’s League, opened schools and rallied for the rights of women.

In 1913, she led the first anti-pass campaign against the government and, together with 700 other women, burned her pass.

History celebrates Charlotte Maxeke as a phenomenal political force and tireless civil rights icon, aptly honoured as “Mother of Black Freedom in South Africa”. Read more...

Lilian Ngoyi
A bold and brave young politician, Ngoyi was revered for her fearless crusades against apartheid and campaigns for women’s rights.

An ANC Women’s League president, Ngoyi was also the first woman to be elected to the ANC National Executive Committee.

On 9 August, 1956, she led 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest the pass book law and was later arrested for high treason.

A tireless champion of political freedom and human rights, Ngoyi became an enduring symbol of the battle for justice. Read more...