The journalist and anti-apartheid activist Wiseman Derrick Khuzwayo (LLB Law, 1981) died in 2017 but his work isn’t done. This is the story of his life, and the legacy he left in the form of a scholarship dedicated to tackling modern slavery
Wiseman was born in 1954. He had been studying law at Durban University in South Africa when his studies were discontinued after he was implicated in an arson attempt at the institution during apartheid. The case against him collapsed but he was later re-arrested and subjected to torture by the South African police.
Wiseman was eventually granted asylum in the UK, first moving to London before enrolling at the University of Hull to finish his studies. Supported financially by fellow students until his graduation through the South African Student Scholarship Fund, he got heavily involved with politics and journalism, regularly contributing to the student newspaper, Hullfire.
Later, Wiseman moved back to London and started work as a journalist. In 1991, upon the landmark release of his hero Nelson Mandela, he returned to South Africa. Here, he worked for a number of national newspapers, becoming one of the country’s most influential journalists.
Wiseman died of cancer in 2017. Doctors had given him six months but he confounded them, fighting the fight for another two years and working the whole time. A tribute in the Cape Times from May 2017 described him as ‘One of the unsung heroes of black journalism’.
Inspired by the memory of the anti-apartheid activist, a group of 30 graduates has provided more than £65,000 worth of funding for a new PhD research scholarship at the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation. It will examine the links between migration, trafficking and contemporary slavery.
“Wiseman was a friend to many of us,” says Mike Craven, a friend of Wiseman’s and a fellow alumnus. “When we got together a couple of years ago, we agreed that we wanted to find a way of supporting the University. “In my days at Hull I ran a lucrative sideline typing student dissertations in return for a bottle of whisky. I typed Wiseman’s thesis, which examined whether apartheid should be considered illegal under international law. He looked at many different legal arguments including Britain’s own anti-slavery legislation and concluded it ought to be considered illegal.
“He recognised the importance of Britain’s anti-slavery legislation in setting a global legal standard. None of us understood at that time that far from being a historical problem, slavery remains a major global problem. Wiseman would have understood that and the importance of his University taking a lead on it. We are proud to have known him. We are proud to do this in his memory.”
Professor John Oldfield, Director of the Wilberforce Institute, has welcomed the scholarship at a time when the need to tackle modern slavery issues has taken on extra urgency given the increase in refugee numbers. “Refugees are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked or exploited once they arrive in their destination country,” he says.