Change the world


It is with extreme shock and utter sadness that Nelson Mandela University has learned of the passing of social entrepreneur and change agent, Dr Vuyo Mahlati.

An astute businesswoman with a heart for development, Dr Mahlati was one of four remarkable South Africans who were awarded honorary doctorates by the University during the 2019 Autumn Graduation.

She was honoured by the Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences in recognition of her work in bringing urgency and intensifying the global call for inclusive economic growth and development, and her scholarship and praxis of entrepreneurship and economic development, particularly in marginal rural economies.

Born in rural Eastern Cape, taught by her mother at a farm school before going to a missionary boarding school in her teenage years, Dr Mahlati’s life as an activist was grounded in her humble upbringing and education.

Among her multiple leadership roles, she was the chairperson of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Advisory Panel on Land Reform, which travelled the length and breadth of the country pursuing the development of a comprehensive policy perspective to drive land reform in the country. Her passion for grassroots development and social justice was always fore-grounded in the way she tackled the emotionally evocative work relating to land reform and the often-contested concept of “expropriation without compensation”. The Panel’s final report delivered towards the end of last year will be one of her lasting legacies.

Dr Mahlati described herself as a development entrepreneur in rural industrialisation and digitalisation and a thought leader. She was an agent of change, always seeking alternatives to the oppressive education system that she encountered under apartheid.

As Mandela University, it was a great honour to be associated with such a trailblazer, whose work and ethic resonated with our resolve towards social justice and being in the service of society.

Her passing has been a huge loss to not only the agricultural sector, where she left an indelible mark, but also to the whole of South Africa as she dedicated the bulk of her short life contributing to the betterment of all its citizens.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to Dr Mahlati’s family, friends, peers, associates and the multitudes of South Africans whose lives have been positively impacted by her being.

She is a stellar example of servant leadership and her legacy will indeed live on.

Prof. Sibongile Muthwa

Vice-Chancellor: Nelson Mandela University