Zacharia Keodirelang Matthews
Zacharia Keodirelang Matthews has been revered by generations of South Africans for his intellectual, political and academic achievements. Considered to be 'a pathfinder, a teacher to millions of people', Matthews was the principal of the University College of Fort Hare - the meeting ground for black politically-conscious intellectuals. Here he shaped and guided political greats such as Govan Mbeki, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and others.
Born in 1901 in Kimberley, struggle activist Zacharia Keodirelang Matthews was part of a politically aware family. He decided to focus his energies on education and by 1930 Matthews was the first African to obtain both a BA and LLB at a South African institution. In 1934, he was awarded his Masters in Anthropology from Yale University in the US.
Matthews returned to South Africa and was appointed as a lecturer at Fort Hare University. By 1944, Matthews became head of Fort Hare's African Studies and was promoted to the post of Professor. During this time, he had joined the ANC and channelled his energy towards its ideals, advocating the fight for liberation and equality against racial prejudice. He passionately communicated the value of education in social upliftment and shaped the thinking of Fort Hare students in terms of resistance to colonialism and apartheid.
In 1960, apartheid activist Zacharia Keodirelang Matthews faced detainment without trial for 135 days under the apartheid government. Once freed, he co-convened the All-In African Conference in March 1961 with Albert Luthuli before moving to Geneva to work as the Secretary of the Africa division of the World Council of Churches. He went on to be Botswana's first ambassador to the USA and passed away a few years later at the age of 67 in the US.