Proposed Nelson Mandela Memorial Centre

17 May 2024 | Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy

Dear colleagues and students

I am pleased to announce that the University of Cape Town (UCT) today (Friday, 17 May 2024) marks a significant milestone in our history with the launch of the proposed Nelson Mandela Memorial Centre and School of Public Governance. Conceptualised to honour the legacy of the late President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, this iconic building will be a living memorial to emulate his leadership in the best way possible: by building a new generation of ethical leaders.

The proposal is to build a new home for UCT’s Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, and to create a vibrant convening space located within a memorial centre curated with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The Nelson Mandela Memorial Centre and School of Public Governance will serve emerging leaders from across the African continent. The precinct, which will be designed through an architectural design competition, will offer interactive public art installations, contemplative walkways, and meeting areas designed to facilitate catharsis, reflection and spiritual resonance; and provide for reflection on the life and times of Nelson Mandela.

This partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation aligns with UCT’s Vision 2030, a vision that extends beyond South Africa to embrace the entire continent and the world at large.

The Director of the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, Professor Faizel Ismail, emphasised that the school is committed to building the capacity of the next generation of African leaders. This leadership must draw on the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela and reflect the values of ubuntu while building the resilience of democratic institutions and transforming our economies to create a prosperous Africa in the 21st Century. It is therefore apt to mark this moment in UCT’s history during Africa Month.

I echo the words of the acting Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Verne Harris, who said: “UCT has many historical links with Nelson Mandela and with his family members. It is appropriate that a Memorial Centre associated with his name be hosted by the university, especially in association with a school dedicated to nurturing the kind of leadership which humanity needs if we are to surmount the challenges confronting us”.

The centre will be located at the southwestern corner of UCT’s upper campus. This iconic setting offers an exciting opportunity to rehabilitate the landscape scarred by the devastating fire of April 2021, greatly enhancing the upper reaches of campus, and re-connecting campus to the mountainside above it. The deliberate spatial juxtaposition with the adjacent Rhodes Memorial will invite dialogue and reflection on the respective roles and disparate legacies of Rhodes and Mandela.

UCT gratefully acknowledges the generous grant of US $21.5 million from Atlantic Philanthropies, as well as generous grants and pledges from a range of donors and alumni, which have enabled the construction of the centre. The Atlantic Philanthropies grant represents the largest single donation ever received by UCT and is a testament to the vision and impact of the project.

Madiba once said: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” I believe that the Nelson Mandela Memorial Centre and School of Public Governance will indeed make a significant difference in our continent and beyond.

While the statutory processes to realise this iconic project are still underway by a team of dedicated professionals, I invite UCT staff, alumni and students to celebrate this momentous occasion and to support the proposed Nelson Mandela Memorial Centre and School of Public Governance as we work together to uphold Madiba’s vision of justice, freedom and human dignity.


Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy
Vice-Chancellor interim

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