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Change the world


Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Ten outstanding young graduates from Southern Africa have been announced as the Rhodes Scholars-Elect for 2023. 

For the first time ever, a Nelson Mandela University candidate has been included in this prestigious cohort - 23 year old Law graduate, Liso Zenani.

The National Secretary of the Rhodes Scholarships for Southern Africa, Mr Ndumiso Luthuli, announced that Rhodes Scholarships have been awarded to ten academically excellent and exceptional young leaders, from across the Southern African constituency (comprising South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and eSwatini), to further their post-graduate (Masters and Doctoral) studies at Oxford University in the United Kingdom commencing October 2023.   

Liso holds an LLB (cum laude) and is currently serving articles at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr in Johannesburg. While at University, he served in various leadership capacities, including as President of the Madibaz Debating Union, Secretary of the Seventh-day Adventist Student Movement and Chairperson of the Southern African Universities Debating Council.

He spent his early childhood in rural Eastern Cape, where his grandfather was the local chief. He developed a strong impression of law as a communal enterprise in which it is the right and duty of every person to participate.

His interests are thus underpinned by civic responsibility and corporate citizenship. Through his studies at Oxford, he hopes to gain a thorough understanding of legislative and structural means through which governments can foster civic participation and accountable corporate environments and how such environments can reduce poverty and promote socio-economic stability.

The Rhodes selection process aims to choose young people with proven academic excellence who also show exceptional character, leadership, the energy to use their talents to the full and a commitment to solving humanity’s challenges. The selection process includes a meticulous review process before the finalists’ interview with a selection committee composed of renowned experts and leaders in diverse fields.  

Post-pandemic and pivoting back to in-person interviews, nine selection committees have shortlisted and interviewed eligible candidates from universities across Southern Africa over the last three months. Twelve regional finalists were endorsed for the South Africa-at-Large national selections. Following a weekend of rigorous and iterative interviews, the Rhodes Scholars for 2023 were announced this week.  

The National Secretary of the Rhodes Scholarships in Southern Africa, Mr Ndumiso Luthuli, commented: “Every year, I am struck by the astounding talent in our country. In 2022 we recorded the highest number of applications ever for the Southern African Rhodes Scholarships in 2022. Submissions were up by 16% on last year, the previous record. Again, our selection committees had excellent pools from which to shortlist for the regional interviews. The finalists interviewed by the national selection committee were all high-potential candidates; hence some tough decisions and hard choices had to be made on Sunday by the South Africa-at-large Selection Committee. We are confident that after a thorough and fair interview process ten exceptional young Rhodes Scholars have been selected for 2023.”  

The Scholars selected have studied diverse academic disciplines, ranging from social psychology and social anthropology to computer science, from law to medicine and neuroscience, from physiology to mechanical engineering. All are academically gifted, socially committed, and exceptional young leaders, who we believe will have impact on Africa and the world in the years to come.   

Described as “a globally inclusive and thoughtful community of leaders”, the Rhodes Scholarships are awarded to young graduates of outstanding intellect and character, with proven leadership abilities and a commitment to service. The awards granted to such all-rounders are based on talent and excellence, irrespective of the field of study; and without regard to gender, gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation, race, ethnic origin, colour, religion, social background, caste, or disability.   

Dr Elizabeth Kiss, CEO of the Rhodes Trust in Oxford, comments: “We are excited to see the tremendous talents of the Rhodes Scholars-Elect from every part of the globe. We know from nearly 120 years of bringing exceptional people to Oxford to study and build friendships and community that when un-likeminded but likehearted people come together, brilliant things happen.”

Kiss continues: “The breadth of experience, interests and talents represented by these young people is amazing. That diversity of perspectives makes our community so dynamic. What unites Rhodes Scholars is their intellectual curiosity, character, commitment to excel and passion to make a difference.”  

“As always, I have enormous gratitude to the hundreds of volunteers around the world, including 61 final selection committees on five continents, who choose Scholars Elect from so many worthy applications. We can’t wait to welcome the new Scholars to Oxford University as part of our lifelong community determined to change the world for the better,” concludes Kiss.  

The Rhodes Scholarships were first awarded in 1903 (, following a significant bequest. Annually, more than 100 Rhodes Scholarships are bestowed to top achieving, young graduates from 60 countries across the world.  The ten Southern African Rhodes Scholars will join a further 92 international students in Oxford, who will make up the Class of 2023.   

For over 100 years, the global Rhodes Scholar community has been a force for good. Scholars form a lifelong community of people in many fields and careers, united by a commitment to having a positive impact on the world. 

In our own country, this is highlighted by the list of Rhodes Scholars which reveals a distinguished cohort of exceptional leaders committed to impacting positively on the lives of their fellow South Africans and to standing up for the world.  

See all the 2023 Rhodes scholars at:

Contact information
Mr Imtiaz Khan
Tel: 27 41 504 4329