Change the world


Graduation is the pinnacle of one’s academic career and, following a rather turbulent year, Nelson Mandela University will celebrate this flagship event in its annual calendar virtually next week.

With Nelson Mandela Bay, in the Eastern Cape, and George, in the Western Cape, where our campuses are based, identified as COVID-19 hotspots as infections continue to rise, the University took the tough, yet responsible, decision to host graduation ceremonies virtually on 17 and 18 December 2020. They will be streamed live on the University’s YouTube channel.

About 1 500 students who have obtained their qualifications will be capped virtually, with honorary doctoral degrees awarded to five outstanding men and women, who have made a remarkable contribution to society, through their work in the fields of literature, economic development and gender advocacy.

The University will also see the graduation of the first cohort of the new and highly popular Advanced Diploma in Technical and Vocational Teaching (NDip TVT), which is an innovative programme to provide lecturers in the TVET sector with a professional lecturer’s qualification. A first in South Africa, the programme was introduced last year as a two-year part-time qualification, as a response to the South African government identifying this sector as a national priority, with a goal of having a headcount of 2.5-million students enrolled in TVET colleges by 2030.

Those graduating in the NDip TVT qualification will add to the 10 000 lecturers in the country (about half of whom are professionally qualified to teach at TVET colleges, although having the requisite skills in the respective fields), teaching more than 700 000 students across the 50 public TVET colleges. 

The University will also confer honorary doctoral degrees on South African Reserve Bank Governor, Lesetja Kganyago, former South African First Lady, Zanele Mbeki, and literary giants Sindiwe Magona and Ben Okri, as well as businessman and former MTN Chief Executive, Phuthuma Nhleko.

Kganyago was reappointed as the Governor of the SARB for a second term in November 2019; his first was effective from 9 November 2014. He has more than 30 years’ experience in formulating and implementing public policy in various roles at the central bank and at National Treasury. During his time at National Treasury, a fundamental reform in the management of the national debt portfolio was completed and he successfully steered several public finance and financial market reforms.

His commitment and substantive contributions to the country and people of South Africa, and to the economic discipline in various roles, is what has led to this honourable recognition by Mandela University through its Faculty of Business Economic Sciences.

Former South African First Lady, affectionately known as MaMbeki, will be honoured by the University through the Faculty of Health Sciences for her contribution to social development and excelling on all frontiers that have simultaneously helped to advance scholarly knowledge.

Mrs Mbeki works with local and global organisations, promoting South African women’s economic empowerment and development. She serves as a trustee and director on several national and international boards that promote gender equality, social and economic development, and the upliftment of poor communities.

She has devoted her life to initiatives that are dedicated to the upliftment of women and visibility of gender issues; the improvement of the quality of life and status of children, youth and people living with disabilities; social justice and social ills, many of which are remnants of the legacy of apartheid.

Magona is an author who was born in Gungululu Village, in the Eastern Cape, but grew up in Bouvlei, near Cape Town, and later worked as a domestic worker. She completed her secondary education through correspondence and graduated from the University of South Africa. After securing a scholarship from Columbia University in New York, USA, she went on to graduate with a Master of Science degree in Organisational Social Work.

She is one of South Africa’s most prominent writers globally.  Her work is influenced by her experiences as a black woman who has endured poverty; and navigated South Africa’s racially defined socio-cultural-economic landscape as a mother, wife and community leader.

Contributing towards peaceful change during the years of the liberation struggle in South Africa, she was one of the founding members of the Women’s Peace Movement in the mid-seventies.

Mandela University honours Dr Magona, through the Faculty of Education, for her outstanding achievements in literature and playwriting, and for using her pen as a weapon in the struggle for peace, social change and freedom.

Nigerian-born and UK-based Ben Okri is a Booker prize-winning, internationally renowned writer with 11 published books and several collections of poetry and essays. He is an acclaimed scholar, whose works have been translated into more than 20 languages around the world.

Okri moved to the UK as a child, where he went to school in London, and returned to Nigeria with his parents on the eve of the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s. The war had a defining impact on his life. When he was deemed too young to pursue studies in his desired field of Physics, he spent the summer reading through his father’s library, where he found his true vocation as a writer.

He endured a brief period of homelessness when funding for his scholarship fell through, sometimes living in parks and other times with friends – a period he deemed very important to his work, intensifying his desire to write. He went on to develop an illustrious writing career during which he contributed enormously to the growth and enrichment of African Literature, a contribution that is being honoured by the University through its Faculty of Humanities.

Under Nhleko’s leadership, the multinational mobile telecommunications company, MTN, grew its subscriber base to nearly 200 million, which propelled it to the heights of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Nhleko, who presently holds a Transformational Leadership Fellowship from the University of Oxford, is listed among the Top 50 global trailblazers. He has been highly instrumental in the expansion of the mobile operator industry into the developing markets of Africa and the Middle East, contributing to resultant coverage to connectivity for populations in 21 countries. His honorary doctoral degree will be awarded through the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology.

For more information on the University’s summer graduation, visit



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