Dr Neville Edward Alexander studied through Unisa while imprisoned on Robben Island, receiving a BA Honours in History in 1969. In 2013, Unisa inaugurated the annual Neville Alexander Memorial Lecture in his honour.


Dr Alexander was born in Cradock, Transkei, and was schooled at a convent run by German nuns. His aptitude for the German language later won him a scholarship to the University of Tübingen. While completing his Doctorate in German Literature, he joined West Germany’s Socialist Students’ Union. Discussions with Algerian and Cuban students sparked a fascination with guerrilla warfare, and after his return to South Africa in 1961, he became involved in a series of small, highly militant anti-apartheid initiatives. In 1964, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit sabotage and sentenced to 10 years on Robben Island. Here he studied through Unisa and became a tutor to other Unisa-enrolled inmates. He went on to become an architect of democratic South Africa’s multilingual policies through work with government and civil society.