Brief history of the Trust
Official launch (March 1997)
Although the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust was established in 1996, it was launched officially on 31 March 1997. The launch was marked by a dinner held at the Spier Festival Center in Stellenbosch.
The 190 guests included prominent politicians, ambassadors, trustees, friends, and academics. Mr Ronald Segal, life-long friend of Harold Wolpe, acted as compere.
Prof Jakes Gerwel and Dr AnnMarie Wolpe paid short tributes to Harold's work.
Prof Saleem Badat, in his keynote address, acknowledged the seminal influence of Prof Wolpe on generations of students. Badat further paid tribute to Wolpe as a scholar, a person committed to the transformation of South African society, a man of high integrity, and someone who never deviated from his socialist beliefs.
The Trust gratefully acknowledges the Swedish International Development Agency and Interfund for financial assistance for its launch dinner.
Kader Asmal and Tessa Wolpe
AnnMarie Wolpe, Pallo Jordan and Eddie Webster
Naledi Pandor and Saleem Badat
Peta, Nicholas and Tessa Wolpe
Michael Burawoy and Dave Kaplan
The formative years (1997-2000)
Friends, colleagues and family members established the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust to commemorate Wolpe's life achievement, and to develop the tradition of his activism and scholarship.
The Trust was legally established in 1997 with the then South African President, Nelson Mandela, as its Patron. A Board of Trustees and an Executive Committee were selected to run the Trust's affairs.
The Trust's first event, an international conference on "The political economy of social change in South Africa", was hosted in April 1997. The conference, which was characterised by lively debate on key socio-political and economic issues, was an enormous success. Importantly, it indicated the need for continued public debate on contemporary issues.
This led to the introduction of the "Harold Wolpe forum meetings" in 1998 in Cape Town, on the basis of funding from the Liberty Life Foundation, a private donor, and Interfund.
At first, the forum meetings were informal events held at the home of Dr AnnMarie Wolpe, and involved a handful of parliamentarians, academics and activists. These events soon gained in popularity, which urged the Trust to apply for new and more substantial funding for its activities.
Expansion and consolidation (2001-2006)
In 2001, the Trust managed to secure a generous three-year grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies. This provided the stimulus to consolidate, formalise and expand the work of the organisation. This included securing office premises in Cape Town; the employment of a full-time National Co-ordinator; the engagement of the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal as a Durban-based partner; and the introduction of new activities and programmes.
Since then, the Trust has grown from strength to strength, signing on additional partners to carry out activities in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape (see Partners), and expanding the range of its activities. The latter include an annual memorial lecture, conferences and colloquia, publications, and a television series.
The expansion and consolidation of the Trust has been sustained by three additional sources of funding, including the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation of South Africa.
The Trust continues to fulfil its role as one of South Africa's premiere facilitators of critical dialogue and debate between policy-makers, academia and civil society around important socio-political and economic issues.