Prof Francis Wilson was a superb leader and an activist academic

28 Apr 2022
28 Apr 2022

The Nelson Mandela School mourns the passing of Professor Francis Wilson, founding director of UCT’s Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU). His drive for social critique and activism in academia inspired the founding directors of the School, Prof Alan Hirsch and Prof Brian Levy. In 2017, the School hosted a gala dinner to celebrate and honour the contribution of Prof Wilson.

Prof Wilson showed how it was possible to be both a serious researcher and a social activist. His work on migrant labour both won him his PhD at Cambridge, and he used it as a weapon to critique the policies and practices of apartheid. His research programs on poverty and inequality were pioneering and largely contributed  to UCT repeatedly being ranked top ten universities in the world in research on economic development issues. The research centres that he established and inspired at UCT contributed significantly in formulation and evaluation of social policies in the post-apartheid era. He recently helped the government by developing strategies to ameliorate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the poor.
Professor Alan Hirsch says that Prof Francis Wilson forged a path as an activist academic which he and his colleagues followed when setting up UCT’s Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance. 
Prof Brian Levy remembers Prof Wilson as a superb leader, scholar, teacher, and mentor. As a mentor, his curiosity, generosity of spirit, moral stature and impatience with narrowly technical pre-occupations inspired a lifetime of work for Prof Levy and many others.
Heartfelt condolences to the Wilson family, colleagues, and friends - Rest in power, Prof Francis Wilson; the Nelson Mandela School will continue to honour your legacy.