A government spy at UCT?

20 April 2015 | Story by Newsroom
Former UCT vice-chancellor Dr Stuart Saunders.
Former UCT vice-chancellor Dr Stuart Saunders.

Stuart Saunders – UCT's vice-chancellor from 1981 to 1996, and a member of staff from the late 1950s – remembers interrogating a government spy in his office, in his book Vice-Chancellor on a Tightrope: A personal account of climactic years in South Africa (2000).

"A Mr Jerome Marshall was appointed as an administrative assistant on 1 February 1981. In April an official in the staff office sought to establish his pension number with the Associated Institutions Pension Fund in Pretoria. He was told that Mr Marshall already had a pension, and [was given] the number. The staffing official recognised the code of the pension number – it meant that Marshall had a police pension; so he phoned the pensions fund again, to confirm the number. When he mentioned that it was a police pension number, he was told that no such number existed! An official in the staff office then spoke to Marshall, who denied that he was a policeman. I asked to see him, and claimed to have incontrovertible evidence that he was a police spy; and I said that I would expose him. He jumped out of the chair and crawled on his hands and knees to the telephone connection behind the desk. After examining that carefully, he partially dismantled the telephone and started looking elsewhere in the room. After he had satisfied himself that there were no listening devices, he sat down once more. (I could have told him that very occasionally, my office was screened for 'bugs'.) He then confessed to being a police spy, and was overcome with remorse. Apparently he had been recruited while a student and had been on the police payroll for years. He alleged that there were a number of spies on campus, and that the police actively disrupted student meetings and sabotaged the cars of student delegates going to NUSAS meetings."

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Dr Stuart Saunders


The University of Cape Town (UCT) hosted an online memorial service for former Vice-Chancellor Dr Stuart Saunders on 24 February. Dr Saunders was a dedicated servant, steward and supporter of UCT. He passed away on Friday morning, 12 February 2021.

Stuart John Saunders was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on 28th August 1931. After graduating MBChB with honours in 1953 at the University of Cape Town, he did post-graduate research at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith in London and at Harvard University. He received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1965 (University of Cape Town). He began his administrative career as the University of Cape Town’s Head of the Department of Medicine (1971-1980) and was co-founder of the university’s Liver Clinic & Liver Research Unit (a field in which he wrote some two hundred articles and co-authored a study that has become a classical reference). He was Vice-Chancellor from January 1981 to August 1996.

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