Alumni who helped shape South Africa

A key event in South Africa’s fight against apartheid has been marked by the University.

The 70th anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration of Cooperation, also known as the ‘Three Doctors Pact’ takes place on Thursday 9 March.

All three signatories of the declaration were Edinburgh medical graduates.

The pact played an important role in South Africa’s liberation struggle and called for the removal of all discriminatory and oppressive legislation.

The declaration pre-empted the Freedom Charter in 1955, which stated that all national groups should have equal rights and inspired the 1996 constitution of the newly democratic South Africa.

The Doctors

Doctor G. M. Naicker, known as Monty Naicker (1910-1978) was President of the Natal Indian Congress. He graduated from Edinburgh in 1934.

Alfred Bitini Xuma (1893-1962) graduated from Edinburgh in 1927 and went on to become President of the African National Congress.

Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo (1909-1983) was President of the Transvaal Indian Congress. He graduated from Edinburgh in 1935.

All three men signed the historic pact of cooperation between the ANC and the Indian Congresses on 9 March 1947.

Edinburgh provided an opportunity for the three men to meet students from across the Commonwealth, giving them new perspectives on colonialism, freedom and nationhood that would shape their political lives. 

Dr Goonam

Another Edinburgh graduate prominent in South Africa’s liberation was Dr Kesaveloo Goonaruthnum Naidoo.

More commonly known as Dr Goonam, she graduated from Edinburgh in 1936.

Together with fellow Edinburgh graduates Dr Naicker and Dr Dadoo she argued for the role of women in the broader black liberation struggle.

Dr Goonam become the first woman to attain the vice-presidency of the Natal Indian Congress, and galvanised South Africa’s 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign.

The stories of 'the Three Doctors’ and Kesaveloo Goonam should inspire us - they struggled and sacrificed for what was just. They also encapsulate the stories of many of our African alumni. What they came to Edinburgh to do and what they eventually did are quite different things - they taught and healed; but sometimes they also fought and built.

Professor James SmithVice-Principal International

South Africa

Today, the University hosts the second highest number of South African students in the UK and has four times more undergraduate South African students than any other UK university.

Edinburgh is fourth in the UK for the number of postgraduate South African students. There are more South African students at the University than from any other African country.

The University has links with a number of leading South African institutions including the University of Cape Town.

Edinburgh University Student’s Association celebrates all things South African through a regular number of events and social activities organised by its South Africa Society.

Centre of African Studies

The University has important historical connections with Africa.

Founded in 1962, the Centre of African Studies is one of the world’s leading centres for the study of Africa.

The Centre acts as a focal point for postgraduate teaching and supervision on Africa and a hub for research programmes that span all three of the University’s colleges.

The Centre is one of Europe’s leading Centres of Africanist expertise and the biggest Centre of African Studies in the UK.


Centre of African Studies

The Three Doctors Pact 

Entry guidance for South African students