Change the world


The excellence of 22 top students and graduates were recognised at Nelson Mandela University’s annual student Academic Awards ceremony on 28 November 2022 together with the VC’s Excellence Awards for staff. 

Vice-Chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa congratulated staff and students for their excellence at the first in-person joint awards function. Staff and students are interdependent on each other, and it was inspiring for both to share their celebrations and reasons for excellence. 

Prof Muthwa encouraged the audience to be passionate and the best at what they do. “Every job is a self-portrait of yourself, autograph your work with excellence”, she said.

In addition, she thanked the support networks of staff and students who were there for them through difficult times, especially the past two years.

The recipients of the prestigious four Vice-Chancellors’ awards for the top achievers in their category were only announced during the evening’s event.

Rupert Gesinstigting Awards


The Rupert Gesinstigting awards are awarded to the best full-time doctoral students registered for the current year at the University in Social Sciences and Humanities and Science, Engineering and Technology.

The recipients of the prestigious Rupert Gesinstigting Awards for the best masters were Riyaad Ismail for Social Sciences and Humanities for his MCom in Business Management and Jacques Welgemoed for Science, Engineering and Technology for his Masters in Mechatronics.


Teaching and researching entrepreneurship and developing practical business support initiatives, such as entrepreneurship centres, incubators, and accelerator programmes, is Riyaad’s aim with his PhD studies in Business Management. He obtained 80% for his MCom in 2021. Riyaad is also a researcher at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. His research identified best practices in providing student entrepreneurship support at South African public universities and was shared at several national conferences, as well as the 2022 annual Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Lekgotla. He also developed a Student Entrepreneurship Assessment Tool available to all public universities in South Africa, to create awareness, gain insights into and assess the student entrepreneurship support, offered at their universities.


As a PhD student in Mechatronics, Jacques is focusing on multirobot systems or swarm robotics and wants to continue working in aerial robotics and develop new and useful machines for the future. Jacques obtained his master’s in Mechatronics with an average of 80%. Swarm robotics seeks to mimic the synergistic behaviour of swarms or flocks in nature. Jacques is trying to create a robotics framework to enable swarming behaviour in multi-robot systems, both heterogenous and homogeneous. By developing a generic framework instead of an application specific swarm, they could potentially be applied to a variety of applications, such as search and rescue work, firefighting and gas leak detection.


Vice-Chancellor's Awards


The four Vice-Chancellor's Awards were presented to the top achievers in their categories:


Hanro van Rooyen: Best First Diploma - Diploma in Game Ranch Management (Science)

Hanro, who passed his Diploma in Game Ranch Management with a 92% average, sees his future as a key figure in the game ranching industry in the Western Cape. He believes in restoring degraded agricultural land back to natural vegetation to promote the introduction of a broad spectrum of fauna. This will contribute to biodiversity preservation and ecotourism in the Western Cape. Currently, Hanro is working at Indalu Game Reserve in Mossel Bay. He was the dux learner and deputy head boy at Oakdale Agricultural High School in Riversdale.

Also best Diploma in the Faculty of Science


Erich du Plessis: Best First Degree – BSc (Science)

“I hope to increase my technical knowledge while providing solutions and improvements to problems faced in industry and which have an impact on our lives,” says Erich. He passed his Bachelor of Science, majoring in Physics and Applied Mathematics, with a 90% average. He also achieved a top mark of 97% in his final year for Partial Differential Equations. Erich, who is from Humansdorp, hopes to become a data science and analysis specialist and to contribute significantly to this fi eld to improve the lives of many people. He is currently studying towards his BSc honours in Applied Mathematics. He was awarded the Flip Potgieter Excellence Award for Best Student in Mathematics I and Mathematics II.

Also best first degree in the Faculty of Science


Luan Staphorst: Best postgraduate award in Social Sciences and Humanities - MA in Linguistics (Humanities)

Luan obtained 85% for his MA in Linguistics from Mandela University, his second of three masters’ degrees (all cum laude). His most recent master’s degree is from Oxford University, where he won the Kirk-Greene Prize for Best Overall Performance. Luan hopes to continue working in academia, specifically in a research space, such as Mandela University’s Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation (CriSHET), where intellectual rigour intersects with the social. He is currently applying for PhD programmes, both in South Africa and abroad, and works as a Research Associate within CriSHET. He has also produced more than a dozen peer-reviewed research publications.

Also best Master’s Degree by Dissertation: Social Sciences and Humanities.


Eleesha Annear: Best postgraduate award in Science, Engineering and Technology – MSc in Zoology (Science)

Eleesha researched cheetah and lion and their preference of prey for her master’s degree in Zoology, and discovered that cheetahs shift their diet seasonally. Cheetahs kill neonate and juvenile prey during the wet season and adult prey during the dry season. This shift in their diet is reflected in the seasonal synchronisation of cheetah reproduction with the breeding season of their prey, she says. Eleesha, who obtained 90% for her master’s degree, currently lives in Belgium and is applying for PhDs in Europe. She hopes to remain in academia, however, and continue research into wildlife ecology and conservation. She says home is, and always will be, South Africa.

Also, best Master’s Degree by Dissertation: Science, Engineering and Technology. MSc in Zoology.


Masters Awards


Siphile Hlwatika: Masters by coursework in Social Sciences and Humanities - Master of Laws in Labour Law. 

Siphile’s research for his Master of Laws in Labour Law identified a gap in our employment law, which needs some development and certainty in light of various conflicting decisions from our courts. His research proposes some solutions to the problems identified, which he incorporates to the practical and legal advice provided to corporate clients. It has practically assisted him in his workplace, ENSafrica, with their day-to-day litigious matters. He believes practising employment law prior to conducting his research contributed to his success. His aspiration is to become a seasoned employment law expert in the foreseeable future. Siphile now lives and works in Cape Town.


Daniel Fouche: Master’s degree by Coursework in Science, Engineering and Technology - MA in Architecture.

The exploration of our local expressions, textiles, patterns, technologies and character, can start to inform a playful, yet incredibly meaningful and relevant architecture, says Daniel, who obtained her master’s degree in Architecture and now works for SAOTA Architects in Cape Town. The idea of architecture responding to the unique fantasies and cultural identities of people and creating an entity to develop and transform specific socio-economic aspects from a personal foundation, excites her. “I have a passion for eccentric postmodern architecture and want to explore its relevance in a very specific South African context, similar to the UK collective Archigram, which emphasises architecture as a human sensual experience, with extreme colour, sub-cultures of industry, entertainment and hyper-consumerism,” Daniel says.


Honours Degree Awards


Stefan van der Poel: BCom Honours in Business Management. Category: Social Sciences and Humanities

Stefan, who obtained 84% for his BCom Honours in Business Management, is currently pursuing two masters’ degrees in International Management. The one is at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business and the other at the Coalition of European Management Schools. He will also attend the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands from January 2023. He hopes his studies will help him to establish the international career of which he has always dreamt. He believes that in academia we are always so focused on becoming more knowledgeable, but knowledge in isolation is useless, if we do not have the wisdom to understand how to use our knowledge to achieve our desired outcomes.


Bouwer Botha: BSc honours in Computer Science and Information Systems. Category: Science, Engineering and Technology

Bouwer’s research produced during his honours degree studies was published in the South African Conference for Artificial Intelligence Research (SACAIR) 2021 proceedings. He scored 89% on average for his BSc Honours in Computer Science and Information Systems. Currently, he says home is the Robotics lab on South Campus, where he does his research as a master’s student. He wants to produce research that is meaningful to himself, his supervisor and the broader scientific community. Bouwer also lectures at the University.


BTech Awards


Phinda Runeli: BTech in Electrical Engineering. Category: Science, Engineering and Technology

“I want to open a cyber security company that will help bring South Africa up to speed with the rest of the world,” and also improve the cyber security state of the entire world, says Phinda. Currently, he works at S4 Integration, an Industrial equipment supplier in Gqeberha as an embedded software developer. He obtained 91% on average for his BTech in Electrical Engineering. Phinda, who attended St George’s College in Gqeberha, won a silver medal at the International Science Fair and two gold medals at the regional Science Expo, as well as a distinction and first in class for Computer Applications Technology.


First Degree Awards


Kaylin Bouwer: BCom Accounting Sciences. Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences

Pearson High dux learner Kaylin who achieved seven distinctions in her matric year and played tennis for South Africa, averaged 83% for her BCom Accounting degree. She is currently undertaking her Certificate in Theory of Accounting at Mandela University and hopes to successfully complete her article internship as a Chartered Accountant, before deciding what career path to pursue.


Kayla Delport: BEd (Intermediate Phase Science and Mathematics). Faculty of Education

“Teaching is a calling, it becomes part of every fi ber of your being. I am a born teacher. It is a privilege, honour and responsibility to shape the minds of the future; everything stems from your education,” says Kayla, who obtained an average of 87% for her BEd Intermediate Phase: Maths and Science. She also scored 100% in Curriculum Studies: Mathematics-Data Handling. Kayla is now teaching at College Hill Preparatory School in Kariega and studying for her honours degree in special needs education at North-West University. She is also interested in researching about learners with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, the correlation between learners’ mental wellbeing and learners’ academic capabilities.


Andrea Weldrick: BA. Faculty of Humanities

My “best sparks of creativity” come when I feel like I have hit rock bottom. Pushing through and working hard always pays off, says Andrea, who is currently completing her honours degree in Philosophy. She obtained an average of 83% for her BA General. Andrea lectures part-time at the University and is a tutor for One2Tutor. She believes that knowledge is truly accessible anywhere and it is just a matter of fi nding the right place to look for it. She wants to live a holistic life that includes building intentional relationships, extending a hand to those who need it and taking advantage of opportunities that allow her to travel and explore.


Kirsten Manthe: BA Psychology. Faculty of Health Sciences

Kirsten wants to work in a job that inspires her, in a place that brings her happiness, and to do so surrounded by loved ones. She obtained her BA in Psychology with several modules above 90% and is currently studying for her honours degree in Psychology. She was head girl at Pearson High School, an Eastern Cape Athletics Team 800m track runner at the SA championships in 2017 and in the Academic Top 5 in her matric year. She believes that the phrase “heir gaat ons nou weer” (here we go again) can get a person through just about anything.


Nicholas Else: BA Law. Faculty of Law

With 93% for Constitutional Law and 91% for Criminal Procedure in his BA Law degree studies, Nicholas wants to use his knowledge to make a difference to the people around him, and the law as a whole. He believes that the pandemic has affected all our lives ineffably. “We have come through it, not without loss or hardship, but we have,” he says. Nicholas believes his work has benefitted from the insights gained through the time he has been through. He is from Kariega and won various academic awards at Muir College Boys’ High. He is currently studying for his LLB.


First Diploma Awards


Chantell Vögts: Diploma in Logistics. Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences

To be disciplined and work hard every day, is Chantell’s recipe for success, obtaining 90% and above in Operations Management, Logistics and Purchasing, in her Diploma in Logistics studies. Her ideal job is to become a business owner. She currently works as an administrative assistant in the Department of Logistics at the University.


Stefanus Bekker: Diploma in Information Technology (Software Development). Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology

Working at COMPRSA, a software development company in Gqeberha, Stefan is at the right place to fulfil his wish to learn and understand how to create software so that he can increase his knowledge of the industry. The DF Malherbe High School alumnus, scored an average of 86% for his Diploma in Information Technology (Software Development).


Zubenathi Daca: Diploma in Public Relations Management. Faculty of Humanities

Zubenathi wants to become a reputable public relations practitioner and communications specialist and would love to own a public relations firm. Having obtained 80% overall for the Diploma in Public Relations Management, she is studying for the Advanced Diploma in Public Relations Management. She also works at the University’s Student Governance and Development department as a social media manager for SEED, a department in the Entrepreneurship Office. Zubenathi matriculated at Inkwenkwezi Secondary School in Cape Town, receiving top achiever prizes for English and IsiXhosa.


Bongiwe Mtshali: Diploma in Law Enforcement: Faculty of Law

Bongiwe was one of the first group of Diploma in Law Enforcement students to graduate from this course, introduced at Mandela University in 2021. She attained an average of 77%. She is from Tonga View, Nkomazi (Mbombela), and matriculated at Beacon College in Malelane. She is currently studying for her LLB and aspires to become a lawyer dedicated to helping people who have been wrongfully convicted. She also hopes to venture into human rights advocacy. At high school she was the top achiever for Computer Applications Technology.


First Year Undergraduate Awards


Dillon Classen: Humanities - Diploma in Information Technology. Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology

Dillon, who aims to pursue a career in cyber security, was the Top Diploma First-Year Student for Information Technology, with an average of 93%. He is now in his second year of IT Communication Networks studies. Dillon passed all seven matric subjects at Alexander Road High School with distinctions, completed the IEB Advanced Programme Mathematics subject from Grade 9 to 12 and received academic honours awards.


Tamaryn Wagner-Welsh: BSc. Faculty of Science

“I want to make other people’s lives better through my actions,” says Tamaryn, who obtained an average of 91.8% for her first year of Bachelor of Science (General) studies. She was the winner of several awards at Collegiate Girls’ High School, including the highest marks in English and Advanced Programme English for Grade 12, as well as the Senior Creative Writing Competition, Photographer of the Year and several academic honours awards

Read more about the winners in our booklet

View the full photo gallery from the event


Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160