Change the world


Whether it is Threads or X, Insta or Facebook, TikTok or YouTube, Nelson Mandela University students and graduates are tapping into social media to carve their niche as influencers in a digital world.

“Influencer” brings to mind a celeb with a massive following on social media, holding sway over a legion of fans. Someone who, due to their pervasive potential impact, is a pot of advertising gold.

By Gillian McAinsh

The global influencer market is a $13.8-billion global industry and brands pay handsomely to an influencer for dropping a mention on their socials. Bear in mind however, that only a handful – think Kylie Jenner or Cristiano Ronaldo – rake in $1-million for a post.

That said, even micro-influencers (under 50 000 followers), and nano-influencers (3 000 to 5 000 followers) can reel in a pay cheque or, at the very least, free merchandise. To retain trust, they generally will flag a paid post as #sponsored content.  

Rates of pay vary, with as little as R200 per post from a new kid and zooming up to mega-money for a mega-influencer. Engagement, star-power and access to a niche audience are all factors.  

And, importantly, to retain trust, they generally will hashtag a paid post as #sponsored content.  

Thetha profiles a few of the Gen Z tastemakers and trendsetters who hold sway online. 


Siyamthanda “Juicy Jay” Jwacu

Semi-professional rugby star and all-round entertainer Siyamthanda “Juicy Jay” Jwacu, 24, leads the pack of Nelson Mandela University influencers. The Mthatha-born actor starred in the reality show Big Brother Titans and that hustle continues, as he is now part of Mzansi Magic’s Saturday Showdown. Juicy Jay is all over social media (he already has more than 20k followers on the new Threads platform) so tune into his socials to hear him sing … he promises he will never stop! He also brought the vibe to the autumn graduation ceremonies in April 2023 when he crossed the stage for his diploma in management. 

Area of influence: Sports, fitness and lifestyle 

Where you can find him: @juicyjay_official (Instagram, Facebook) @JuicyJay_Siya (X) 

His numbers:  308k (Instagram), 98k (Facebook), 42k (X) 

What you’ll find: Juicy Jay chatting, singing, dancing, modelling, smiling … generally charming the world and showing his “Juicy Gang” the love. 


Akhona Maldaka

Fashion grad and digital creator Akhona specialises in fashion content, and is now enrolled for her honours  degree in fashion  design at Mandela. Her love for fashion sparked an interest in influencer marketing when she realised the impact of what people see on what they buy. This is why, she says, “I challenge myself to create quality and thought-provoking content”. While living in New York, Akhona worked with brands such as Mejuri and NotPot and now that she is back on home soil, her collabs include  the TFG Group, Cotton On , Factorie, Imprecca, Steve Madden, UGG and Google South Africa (among others). 

Area of influence: Fashion 

Where you can find her: @akhona_maldaka on Instagram 

Her numbers: 12.5k 

What you’ll find: easy-to-wear elevated basic outfits 



Kamva Mgweba

Kamva Mgweba, a fourth-year marketing student from Cofimvaba, sees himself as a media and micro influencer. He’s at ease with his voice, having broadcast on Madibaz Radio and done voiceover work. “I have also been fortunate enough to interview a figure like Connie Chiume on the podcast I am currently working on, which is called The Lounge, The Real Talk.” As a content creator Kay spends most of his days creating content and editing, he says in one TikTok, just before unboxing a hamper of Black Cat peanut butter treats. He loves collabs with “local is lekker” brands like Parmalat, Handy Andy, Steri Stumpie and rooibos tea. He hits the spot with the 18-24 age group. 

Area of influence: Campus life 

Where you can find him: @kay_mgweba on TikTok, @KayMgweba on YouTube 

His numbers: 29.2k (TikTok), 14k (Facebook), and nudging 2k YouTube subscribers  

What you’ll find: Up close and personal vlogs with Xhosa and English commentary on campus life (right from getting dressed in the morning). 


Vanessa Mapholi

BCom Economics honours student Vanessa Mapholi is a content creator, research enthusiast and academic influencer. She first went to the University of Johannesburg before settling in at Nelson Mandela University. “Since my failure at UJ I made a vow that I was going to make a drastic change because I see a lot of mistakes which could have cost me my career and chance to escape poverty, and make my family proud,” says Vanessa. “As such, I have dedicated my social media platforms to educating people and giving them hope.” It’s certainly working for her, because she’s just been hired by PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the Big Four accounting firms. Her aspiration to be a diplomat at the United Nations is now one step closer! 

Area of influence: Career motivation 

Where you can find her: @mapholivanessa on TikTok and Instagram (look for Alkebulan and the blue butterfly) 

Her numbers: 57k followers, and 4.2m likes (TikTok) 

What you’ll find:  Relatable career and study tips 


Luke Rudman

Contemporary artist Luke Rudman is completing his honours in Fine Art at Nelson Mandela University. The spaces of environmentalism, drag and live performance art all add to his way of creating art that sits in the intersection of painting, photography, performance and installation. Luke has already worked across South Africa and abroad and been a finalist in the 2021, 2022 and 2023 Sasol New Signatures national art competition.  Over the past six years, starting in high school, he has contributed to exhibitions and projects such as Google Arts and Culture, Rich Mnisi, the recent Turbine Art Fair and Design Indaba. He is also a regular collaborator with eco-giant Greenpeace Africa.

Area of influence: Painting and art  

Where you can find him: @lukerudman on Instagram 

His numbers: 12.4k 

What you’ll find: Mind-bending works of art in glorious colour  


Carin Williams

Carin Williams knows how to wield a brush as a make-up artist and as a fundi on natural hair care. As a digital lifestyle content creator, this IT graduate is creating a life she loves by helping others to look and feel beautiful. It’s working: when it comes to hair care, close to 500K viewers have watched how she does her doek and her Get-ready-with-me (#GRWM) content is also popular. And did YOU know how to look great on R25-a-pop make-up from Pep stores? Go check her out, you heard it here first. … 

Area of influence: Hair care and make-up  

Where you can find her: @cay_galore on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube  

Her numbers:  18k (TikTok), 8.5k (Instagram)  

What you’ll find: #GRWM make-up and hair tutorials 

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057