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Unisa KZN Region Hosts Historic Simiso Nkwanyana Memorial Lecture



Unisa KZN Region Hosts Historic Simiso Nkwanyana Memorial Lecture

Unisa KZN Region Hosts Historic Simiso Nkwanyana Memorial Lecture. On the 9th of October 2023, the Unisa KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Region organized a landmark event, the Simiso Nkwanyana Memorial Lecture. The event took place at the prestigious Durban International Convention Centre (ICC) and was graced by the presence of esteemed guests, including the Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation, Dr. Blade Nzimande, Gcina Nkwanyana (Simiso’s wife), his children, family representatives, Sipho Nkosi (MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works in KZN), Nomalungela Gina (Deputy Minister of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition), and Sdumo Dlamini (former president of COSATU).

Honoring the Legacy of Simiso Nkwanyana

The primary objective of the lecture was to pay homage to the life and accomplishments of Simiso Derrick Nkwanyana, a former Unisa student leader and the KZN Provincial Secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP). Nkwanyana held the distinction of being the youngest Provincial Secretary ever elected by the SACP, and he was a rising star within the party in KZN.

Nkwanyana was a prominent figure in the fight for the rights of the working class. As a student leader, he recognized the interconnection between student struggles and the broader struggles of the working class and the underprivileged. He understood that the accessibility to education was intricately tied to the liberation of all individuals from class-based oppression and exploitation. His leadership during and after the 1994 democratic breakthrough, notably at Unisa, exemplified his commitment to these ideals.

A Trailblazer in Student and Workers Movements

Nkwanyana’s dedication to the cause led to his arrest on two occasions as a Student Representative Council (SRC) leader for spearheading student actions. In the post-1994 era, he remained an SRC leader and played a pivotal role in the Broad Transformation Forum, which had a representative on the university council. In this capacity, Nkwanyana advocated for transformative changes at all levels within Unisa to align with the post-apartheid higher education landscape.

Nkwanyana was known not only for his leadership but also for his infectious laughter. He possessed the unique ability to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and social strata. He could interact with the elite as equals while effectively conveying his ideas, and later in the day, he would be found in informal settlements addressing issues of poverty. The following day might see him leading a COSATU march against worker retrenchments or conducting a political workshop for student organizations.

In 1996, Nkwanyana assumed the role of Chairperson of the Unisa Sub-Committee on Education Transformation. His primary focus was to achieve a non-sexist, non-racial, and democratic education system. This committee operated under the Unisa Broad Transformation Forum, established to drive the transformation agenda of the university.

University Commitment to Youth Leadership

Professor Zodwa Motsa Madikane, representing the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, reaffirmed Unisa’s commitment to nurturing youth leadership in the country. She emphasized the university’s dedication to honoring Nkwanyana, demonstrated by the renaming of the Unisa Durban Hub Building to the Simiso Nkwanyana Building in 2019.

Support and Recognition from Distinguished Figures

Messages of support were received from Nomsa Dube-Ncube, the Premier of KZN, with the message conveyed by Sipho Nkosi. Bheki Nxumalo, representing the Dean of Students, emphasized the crucial role of student leadership in the university’s life. The lecture also featured a thought-provoking debate with contributions from Professor Somadoda Fikeni, Commissioner of the Public Service Commission, and Mfanafuthi Sithebe, Director of the Department of Higher Education and Training, who delved into the significant issues raised by the Minister.


All the speakers expressed their gratitude to the Nkwanyana family for allowing the university to establish this commemorative lecture. Khaye Nkwanyana, speaking on behalf of the family, provided an eloquent account of his brother’s political and educational journey, which began in the rural areas of KZN and tragically concluded in Durban, with Simiso Nkwanyana serving as the SACP Provincial Secretary at the time of his untimely passing.

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