The South African Scholarships

"... and, thanks to a scholarship supported by the students themselves, Sam went to Keele University where he obtained a first class degree... and broke the apartheid barrier..."

So who was Sam Nolutshungu?

Samuel Clement "Sam" Nolutshungu (1945–1997) was one of the foremost South African scholars, and an internationally acclaimed expert on South African politics. He graduated from Keele University in 1969.

In the early 1960s, Sam Nolutshungu left South Africa for England because he was unable to study under the apartheid regime. Thanks to a scholarship went to Keele University where he obtained a first class degree in economics, history and politics. He went on to teach in the Government Department of Manchester University between 1978 and 1990. From 1991 till his death he was Professor of Political Science and African Politics at the University of Rochester, and from 1995 also acting Director of the University's Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies. In December 1996 he was offered the most important position in the South African University system, the Vice-Chancellorship of the University of the Witwatersrand.This was the first such appointment of a black South African. Unfortunately, Sam was forced to turn down the offer due to cancer that led to his death in Rochester in 1997.

Sam Nolutshungu produced a high number of significant articles and published three books. His first book, South Africa in Africa: a study in ideology and foreign policy, published in 1975, was his doctoral thesis; this work is considered to be the first major study of South African politics by a black South African. It was followed in 1982 by another work on South African politics, Changing South Africa: political considerations, an analysis of the prospects for a non-violent transition to a non-racial society. The study obtained the Johannesburg Sunday Times' Book of the Year Award. His last major work was Limits of anarchy: intervention and state formation in Chad, written in 1996, which examined Chadian modern history with the intention of exploring the dilemmas that involve "fictive states", i.e. countries which have to endure a fitful existence between too much and too little government.

Alumni memories of Sam

"I knew Sam – he was at Keele in my time and on one occasion in the Sneyd Arms demonstrated (by use of the BOSS pencil test on my hair) that I was in fact black, which was news to me. I believe that it was the Students’ Union which paid for the scholarship but I do not think that there was any kind of collection out of student grants."

Simon Sweetman (1966)

"I am more or less certain that the South African Scholarship Fund was an initiative of the Students' Union, and not an initiative of the University itself, although the University was supportive and, I believe, waived all tuition etc fees. The South African Scholarship Fund paid for travel, accommodation and subsistence. I have a feeling that I was presented with a Standing Order form during Freshers’ Week in October 1963, which would suggest that the decision was probably taken by the Union the previous summer, but it may have happened during 1963-64: certainly I think it was an initiative pursued by my more radical predecessors. I know that I continued to pay my contribution until only a few years ago, when my bank pointed out that the Fund had been wound up. I recall also that it was a Union initiative of which students were inordinately proud. And of course that Sam Nolutshungu should have proved to have been such a brilliant student rather added to the general sense of satisfaction with the scheme."

Bill Proctor (1968)

"The money for the South African Studentship was raised from both staff and students and a special fund was set up for that purpose. There was no 'precept' imposed on students; it was entirely voluntary. I think the University waived the fee-demand and the studentship paid for living expenses. I can't be certain but the initiative for this almost certainly came initially from Martin Dent, a lecturer in African politics. In taking up the scholarship Sam forfeited the right to return to South Africa, thus separating himself forever from his family. Not many students make such a sacrifice in order to get a university education. Sam was, I think, the only black student we sponsored, but what a credit he was to us and to himself."

Chris Harrison (1968)

"Even though it may have been a Students' Union initiative, its implementation was very much a joint effort between students and staff, some of whom were very active in it. I think that there was a joint student-staff implementation committee, although I think the staff on it may have been acting in an individual capacity rather than as part of their University role. The standing orders were a key part of the fund-raising strategy and the intention was that people should keep contributing through that mechanism after they left. It was a hugely important and highly successful initiative of which the University itself and everybody who was involved should feel immensely proud. Sam’s academic brilliance and his personality and general contribution to University life were a very important element of that success and made a great impact. I also agree that it’s a story which deserves to be told somewhere. How sad it is that Sam is no longer with us to give his perspective."

Malcolm Clarke (1969)

"In the mid-1960s Keele had a program paying for the education of a black South African student. I was told when I arrived on campus that each student had agree to contribute a certain amount from their grant to cover the cost of the student’s education. I assumed this was university policy."

Dick Blackett (1969)

"I have it lodged in my mind that the University waived the tuition fees but the students provided a maintenance grant. I can’t recall how the latter was done. I don’t recall much pressure in the form of frequent collections, appeals, etc; presumably, that might have been thought embarrassing to the recipient of the scholarship. I seem to recall the occasional Union event from which the profits went to the fund."

Paul Brownsey (1970)

"I wasn't in at the beginning of the South African scholarship fund but Sam was already at Keele or arrived while I was there. I think in 1968 I stood for election as Vice-President of the Union and I did not win. God Smart, the Union President and a dear friend of mine, recognised that I just liked doing stuff and he suggested that I lead up a fundraising drive to bring in more South African scholars and I didn't need much encouragement - the rest followed on. Godfrey Smart 1968I still have the letters. I think I wrote to all the local MPs and to a few others and maybe some celebrities (Enoch Powell, Jack Ashley, Winnie Ewing, Fenner Brockway, and others). I may still have Enoch Powell's letter declining the opportunity to do so. I spent the best part of a year standing in the Union persuading fellow students to sign bank standing orders donating one pound annually to the fund - I got hundreds to sign - I remember it very well. We got some celebrities to donate. I do remember when it became clear that we would be able to raise the money, meetings with Godfrey, me and a couple of university people - including a lecturer who had connections in South Africa who could travel there without much suspicion. This memory is vague and I can't recall names, but I am sure I listened while stories were told of smuggling in application forms and leaving them in places where they might be picked up by appropriate students. There was a real political difficulty in even getting the information to the black community. I remember being influenced by reading some of the stories in the application forms that were shown to me. I think there were tales of paying bribes to get the South African scholar out of the country. I didn't have any role in choosing the next South African student and I think he may have arrived while I was at Swarthmore College in the USA. I do remember a rather embarrassing introduction to him ('this is the man who raised the money'). But I just stood in the Students' Union and persuaded passing students to sign up a banker's order for £1 a year. And I don't know how many awards were made over the years, but certainly, my standing order took that £1 annually for a very long time - until the university and the Union presumably decided there was no more need and wound up the fund. The University provided free tuition (and a room on campus) while the Union provided a stipend for the student to live on through this fundraising. I knew Sam - he was lovely - and continued to know him later on when we would meet occasionally in the USA at meetings of the American Political Science Association."

Phil Davies (1971)

godfrey-smart-1968 Photo: Godfrey "God" Smart, KUSU President 1968-1969 RIP. His election manifesto was memorable for his exhortations to Vote for God!

"As I remember we all paid £1 - can't remember if it was a term or a year. A year I think. Sam was ahead of me at Keele but he was one of the loveliest people you could ever meet and very popular with everybody. He was Chairman of the Debating Society and he oversaw the debates brilliantly - like an elder statesman. Sam was also in my block in Horwood for one of the years I was there. I am sure the initiative came from the Students' Union but it had the full support of the University."

Richard Offer (1971)

"I can throw a little light on this from my time at Keele (1967-71). The scheme was in place when I arrived and Sam Nolutshungu was the first 'scholar'. It was entirely a Student Union initiative - students were invited to contribute by standing order and many did so, but it was voluntary. The University played no part in running the scheme but agreed to waive fees for the scholars. A second scholar arrived around 1968 and I think his name was Mafu Mbandla, but unfortunately he dropped out after a couple of years. Professor Ronnie Frankenberg spent a lot of time helping him to adjust to life in the UK. I became Chair of the Fund in 1969 and was involved in finding the third scholar. This was a difficult business since there were no official channels available to us to publicise the scheme in South Africa. I remember there was a list of contact names, mainly of SA academics, to whom I sent details of the scheme with a request to circulate them to potential candidates. Eventually, we recruited a scholar called something like Wilfred Wenzel. I remember meeting Wilfred at Heathrow and being rather non-plussed when he proffered a large pack of Rothmans as a gift (many of us were of course boycotting all SA products at the time). My recollection is that Wilfred settled in very well but lost contact with him after I graduated in 1971. I have no idea what became of the scheme subsequently - maybe it was no longer seen as useful in the post-apartheid era."

Bob Stow (1972)

"Although I only arrived in Sam's final year we were the same age and I got to know him well; we were both doing Paul Rolo's courses, we had South Africa in common, and I was enormously touched when he gave me his notes for finals when he had finished with them. I only wish I had used them better! I lost contact with Sam sometime before he died but I did keep in touch with him when he first went to Manchester as a postgraduate and years later, when I was running ERASMUS and he was teaching at Manchester, I contacted him again to check out someone planning to set up a new think-tank in Cape Town. He was a great guy and we were all very proud of him and of the scholarship initiative which as I remember was organized by the Student's Union; certainly not by the Keele hierarchy of the day. From the first it was clear that he had an exceptional academic future ahead of him and it was the cruellest cut of all that he died before he was able to take up the V-C post at Witwatersrand."

Anthony Smallwood (1973)

"I remember the South African programme too and Mafu who was the SA student during my time at Keele. I remember contributing to the fund from my grant and I think I kept going till it ended, though it is all a bit hazy now! I was wondering the other day what had happened to the SA students who studied at Keele – just a passing thought – so it was heartening to read about Sam."

Cathy Riley (1973)

"I was one of the four students representing Keele on "University Challenge" back in 1973, along with "Hamish the Red", Mike Butcher and Zeb Taylor. I was the one who was 'reading Situations Vacant', having been booted out at the end of my P2 year - the selection process for the team formed part of Final Fling, and the recording was in early October, so I wasn't going to let the chance of appearing slip away. Anyway, the main purpose of this note is to say that we all agreed to donate our appearance fee (£50 each) to the South African scholarship fund."

Andy Cobley (1973)

"Sam was before my time but the Fund was still active and running in the mid-seventies. It was a Students' Union initiative I believe and was run from there. I recall the guy from South Africa who came over on the funds around 1974 or 1975."

Mike Baldock (1976)

"I was at Keele 1968-72 and remember signing up to pay £1 a year by Direct Debit to the South African Scholarship Fund. This appeared on my bank statement for years after I left Keele. Eventually twenty years? I was notified that the fund was closing and payment was no longer required. Obviously £1 does not seem much now, but I think our grant for a term was only £100 or so. I remember working in the holidays at various pottery factories and getting £6.50 for a 40 hour week! So £1 was quite significant, and I think lots of us paid it."

Steve Plant (1972)

bano-keele "I don't know if he was funded by this scholarship but when I was at Keele, during one year around 1972-34 I knew a black South African student named Bano who was there because of some special funding and had some anti-apartheid history. I've got at least one photograph with him but can't remember now what he was studying. He was a very likeable individual with a good sense of fun but occasionally he gave some glimpses of a very different world. Also, for a while in the 1980s I'm fairly sure I contributed to a Keele fund to help South African students. Here is a photo of Bano sitting on the shoulders of Steve Hammond (1979), who was a technician in the Geology department at the time (he later became a student). I think the photo must have been taken in summer 1973. I'm not sure I even knew at the time how to spell the name, or whether it was a nickname or short for something else. I think that it must have been quite a culture shock coming from apartheid South Africa to Keele in the early '70s. Politically, I was fairly ignorant and naïve in those days and now wish I'd asked more questions! I also wonder whether Bano was at Keele for just a year as I don't remember seeing him over a longer period."

Ruth Benson (Amery) 1975

Photo above: "Bano"