Silas Modiri Molema South Africa

Biography of Silas Modiri Molema

Silas Modiri Molema
Silas Modiri Molema

Silas Modiri Molema was born in Mafeking (Mahikeng), north-west South Africa, son of Silas, a landowner and Chief of the Tshidi Barolong community. Educated at Lovedale, Molema came to the University to study Medicine, aged 23, in 1914. Despite financial hardship throughout his studies owning to his dependency on his father's wealth, Molema graduated MB ChB in 1919. During his studies he became the President of the African Races Association of Glasgow (ARA), entering into the debate about the future of South Africa and Race relations. He also published his first work "The Bantu Past and Present" (1920).

Upon graduation, Molema undertook residency at the Hume Street Hospital, Dublin, returning to Mahikeng in 1921, establishing a successul medical practice treating all races.

When the Hertzog Bills were introduced in 1936, Molema was drawn into national politics, and served as a member of the committee charged with presenting the views of Africans to the government. His interest in political affairs increased and he was a member of the Atlantic Charter Committee in 1943.

He was an open critic of administrative failings and financial disorder in the African National Congress (ANC), and was elected national treasurer in 1949, reelected 1952.

Molema was not opposed to cooperation with sympathetic non-Africans in the early 1950s. He was arrested for civil disobedience in the Defiance Campaign of 1952, but was not tried as a principal leader of that campaign. A year later the government ordered his resignation from the ANC, after which he retired from politics.

Besides his most famous book, he wrote many pamphlets and two full-length biographies: "Chief Moroka" (1951) and "Montshiwa 1815-1896, Barolong Chief and Patriot" (1966).

Silas Modiri Molema died in 1965.

In September 2021, the University of Glasgow's Geology building was renamed the Molema building in his honour. Previously known as the Gregory building after John Walter Gregory, following consultation with colleagues in the relevant Schools, the University’s Senior Management Group re-named the Gregory Building, the Molema Building. The decision was taken in recognition of the fact that the views propounded by Gregory on race and racial segregation which are completely at odds with the University’s values.

The University chose to recognise Dr Molema because of his contribution to South Africa through his medical, academic and political work, as well as his close ties to the University of Glasgow. The decision to name a building after Dr Molema is supported by his daughter, Warada, and by his family.


Silas Modiri Molema
Born 1892.
Died 1965.
GU Degree: MB ChB, 1919; Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences,
University Link: Alumnus, Graduate
Occupation categories: authors; physicians; politicians
View Additional Information
English snippet: Among the first African medical graduates in South Africa
Record last updated: 19th Oct 2021

Country Associations

South Africa South Africa, Mahikeng
Place of Birth

University Connections

University Roles