Staff and students at the newly-branded Nelson Mandela University have a "responsibility to cherish and defend Nelson Mandela's name" and "be true Madibas," former deputy justice Dikgang Moseneke said on Thursday.
Moseneke and other dignitaries including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Mandela's former lawyer and anti-apartheid activist, George Bizos, spoke at the unveiling of the Eastern Cape university's new name and brand, which drops 'Metropolitan' from its title.
"Now that you are Nelson Mandela University, your task has grown 20-fold and a lot more is expected of you," Ramaphosa said at the launch. "Your task is to build an even greater contribution to this country, and you are duty-bound to much [because of this name]," he said.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) previously said it would rebrand to reposition itself as a global institution. The cost of the launch event was R750,000 excluding "normal annual operational" budgeting for new signage, according to Business Day.
Outgoing vice-chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz told the publication the long-term benefits of being the only university in the world to carry the name of former president Nelson Mandela would "far outweigh any initial investment for the launch".
The university SRC's Pedro Mzileni said the new name of the university should not be abbreviated to NMU, similar to its previous name. He said nobody calls Harvard University 'HU' and encouraged the university community to follow suit.
Although Mandela himself never attended the university -- or one of the three higher education institutions in Port Elizabeth before their merger into NMMU in 2005 -- he did attend the nearby University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape, alongside Oliver Tambo, Robert Sobukwe and other African political giants. Chancellor Santie Botha said it is a name that "needs no explanation wherever you are in the world", according to Times Live.
Prior to a merger of the institutions in 2005, NMMU was made up of the University of Port Elizabeth, Vista University and Port Elizabeth Technikon. The new name of 'Nelson Mandela University' was gazetted by the Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande in 2016.
The university will also be establishing a medical school on its campus, the country's 10th overall, and in September launch a dedicated Ocean Sciences Campus.