UCT frontrunners claim spot in M&G’s 200 Young South Africans list

28 June 2021 | Story Niémah Davids. Photo UCT News. Read time >10 min.
UCT staff, students and alumni shine bright on the M&G’s 2021 Top 200 Young South Africans list.
UCT staff, students and alumni shine bright on the M&G’s 2021 Top 200 Young South Africans list.

A total of 31 members (past and present) of the University of Cape Town (UCT) community have earned a deserved spot on the Mail & Guardian’s (M&G) annual 200 Young South Africans list, demonstrating that they are frontrunners for change in the country and innovators in their respective fields.

The M&G’s 200 Young South Africans list, currently in its 15th year, recognises the country’s most eminent and accomplished young people. The virtual event on Thursday, 24 June, presented a fitting close to Youth Month, and was held in partnership with the National Lotteries Commission under the theme “Resilience and Innovation for Excellence”. It was hosted by eNCA news anchor Thembekile Mrototo, and the M&G’s Athandiwe Saba.

The award seeks to identify young trailblazers in various fields, including education, justice and law, civil society, and health. The list also features a special editor’s choice category in honour of the country’s COVID‑19 frontline workers, introduced for the first time in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic.

According to the M&G, the following members of the campus community (students, staff and alumni) are among the most influential young South Africans.

Arts, entertainment, film and media

  • Lana Crowster (33) is a songwriter, vocalist, educator, band leader, record label founder and UCT alumnus. In 2018 she founded South Africa’s first women-only big band. The project was 10 years in the making, and something Crowster considered necessary to develop young women musicians, and to create a safe space for them to follow their passion for performance.
  • Musa Khanyile (29) is a clinical psychologist whose role at UCT involves treating mental disorders and educating and helping students on all things involving mental health. Khanyile is studying towards a master’s in public health at UCT. He’s also an award-winning poet, having won the 2020 South African Literary Award for Poetry in English, as well as the 2021 Humanities and Social Sciences Best Poetry Award.
  • Lehobye Goitsemang (33) is an opera singer, currently pursuing her master’s in voice performance at the University of Michigan in the United States. In 2018 she joined the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota orchestra’s first tour to South Africa, in honour of former president Nelson Mandela’s 100th-birthday celebrations, as a soloist. One of her goals is to inspire more local interest in opera by mentoring young students. She graduated from UCT in 2015.

Business and entrepreneurship

  • Nabeelah Kolia (30) is a manager and actuary at Deloitte. She is the newly elected president of the Association of South African Black Actuarial Professionals. The UCT alumnus aims to lead the charge for change in South Africa’s actuarial profession so that it reflects the country’s demographics. Kolia believes in asking for opportunities, as “the worst thing that can happen is that you are told ‘no’”.
  • Mulalo Nemataheni (30) is the founder and CEO of ImPowerX Advisory Services. She is driven by her passion to transform South Africa into a financially literate nation. Her ultimate aim is to help build a country where ‘black tax’ is an issue of the past, and people are empowered to be economically active. She graduated with a BCom from UCT in 2012.
  • Lilitha Mahlati (33) is the co‑founder and managing director of Ivili Loboya, a 100% black‑women-owned wool and cashmere manufacturing facility in the Eastern Cape – Africa’s first cashmere production facility, which sources sheep and goat hair from farmers across South Africa. She enjoys having a positive impact on her employees and their community, as well as the farmers in their supply chain. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business science from UCT.
  • Nadine Arnold (32) is the co‑founder and head of business development at Junior Think Tanks and Rain. Her main goal is to help young people develop a skillset that will enable them to thrive in any environment, and to raise the next generation of innovators and changemakers. She graduated with her BCom from UCT in 2010.

Civil society

  • Zara Randriamanakoto (35) is a postdoctoral researcher at the South African Astronomical Observatory. In 2018 she completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in UCT’s Department of Astronomy, and at the end of 2019 also concluded a six‑month stint as a guest lecturer at the university.
  • Grant Edmond (30) is the executive director at Just Grace, a non-profit organisation (NPO) that focuses on youth-related projects such as youth development, youth activation and learner engagement. Edmond completed his business science degree at UCT in 2013, his PGDip in accounting in 2014 and his master’s of philosophy in public law in 2015. He also worked as an assistant lecturer at UCT.
  • Ziyanda Stuurman (32) is a policy manager at UCT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. Stuurman works to turn academic research into blueprints for actionable policies for the betterment of all stakeholders. Her academic career has taken her to universities in England and the United States.
  • Karabo Malahleha (23) is a final‑year business science student at UCT and the founder of Asikhulumeni, an NPO that aims to start conversations about gender‑based violence throughout high schools in South Africa. His main goal is to raise awareness and initiate positive change.


  • Noluvuyo Gqadu (34) is the founder and managing director of CodeNgwana, which teaches children from disadvantaged communities how to code. She graduated from UCT with a BCom honours in information systems in 2015, followed by her master’s in information systems in 2017. She’s also a mentor at the Miller Center of Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University in Silicone Valley, US.
  • Jameelah Omar (33) is a senior lecturer in UCT’s Faculty of Law. She coordinates the final year LLB degree and convenes the community service programme. Social justice pervades Omar’s legal outlook.
  • Athenkosi Nzala (29) is the founder and CEO of Limitless Online Learning Solutions. He aims to revolutionise the way people learn, train, collaborate and assess the online space. He graduated with a BSc honours in civil engineering in 2016, and his master’s in education in 2020.
  • Leana de Beer (35) is the founder and CEO of Feenix, a public-benefit organisation that gives students a platform to formalise their funding efforts and connect them with communities that are willing to fund their education. De Beer started her business in response to the #FeesMustFall protests. She graduated with an MBA from the UCT Graduate School of Business in 2016.
  • Iviwe Mtubu (20) is studying towards a bachelor’s degree in environmental and geographical science, industrial sociology, and historical studies. He is determined to fight the education system that allows poverty to hinder a child’s opportunities. He’s also a director at UCT’s SHAWCO, a student-led organisation that designs programmes to enhance township education. In addition, he’s in the process of launching a mentorship initiative for matric learners in Gugulethu, in partnership with IkamvaYouth Gugulethu.
  • Nasrin Olla (31) is a visiting scholar at Brown University. She graduated with a BA from UCT and received her master’s and PhD from Cornell University. In 2020 she received Cornell’s Guilford Prize for the best dissertation of the year. In her work as an educator, she focuses on literature from Africa and its diaspora.
  • Merle Mansfield (33) is a programme director at the DG Murray Trust. She graduated from UCT with an honours degree in social science in 2011.
  • Jaden Corker (19) is a second-year BSc student majoring in mathematics. He is keen to graduate so that he can teach high-school education. In 2020 Corker was appointed as an education assistant as part of the presidential employment initiative. He is now a grade eight and nine mathematics tutor.
  • Lebogang Diale (30) is the co‑founder and executive director at Gradematch, an ed-tech company that uses big data and artificial intelligence to create tools and technologies. Democratising education in South Africa is the task he has set for himself. Diale completed his business science degree and his bachelor’s in engineering at UCT, majoring in electro-mechanical engineering.
  • Zanele Suzan Maduna is a chartered accountant and the founder of No Valo, a non-profit organisation established with the sole aim of breaking the cycle of poverty in South Africa using education. The NPO seeks to empower aspiring chartered accountants by providing coaching and mentorship programmes with a special focus on self-leadership and soft skills. Zanele holds an Executive and Management Coaching certificate from UCT.


  • Hayley Clements (35) is a researcher in African biodiversity at Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Sustainability Transition. She graduated from UCT with a BSc Honours in zoology and a PhD in biological sciences in 2008 and 2016 respectively.


  • Zolani Metu (28) is the founder and director of Decolonial Mental Health, which provides Afro‑inspired solutions to psychosocial challenges in South Africa. He obtained his master’s in social work from UCT.
  • Nicholas Pereira (32) is a physiotherapist based in KwaZulu-Natal, and the founder of Enhanced Physiotherapy. He teaches his philosophy of preventative healthcare to the youth and to professional athletes. He obtained his master’s in sports and exercise physiotherapy from UCT in 2019.
  • Candice Langford (31) is a physiotherapist, author, and public speaker. She graduated from UCT with a BSc in physiotherapy in 2014.
  • Neziswa Titi (35) is a research psychologist at UCT’s Children’s Institute. She describes herself as a “child-centric methodologist”. Her work is aimed at law reform and child rights advocacy through youth participatory mechanisms and community engagement.
  • Cameron Joseph (23) is a fifth-year medical student at UCT. As a clinical student, he rotates through various specialities and their respective clinical teams. Over the course of his undergraduate studies, Joseph has taken every opportunity to invest his time where it counts. When not on duty, Joseph finds time to write for publications both locally and internationally.

Rural development projects

  • Hope Matsila (31) is an attorney and social impact advocate. She started the Mindful Catalyst Blog to share her advocacy work and inspire people to use their own platforms to advocate for socioeconomic rights at grassroots level. She’s an alumna of UCT’s Postgraduate School for Legal Practice.

Science and technology

  • Lerato Mpye (34) is a scientist at Mintek and a UCT alumna. She mentors university students in her field and offers mathematics and science tuition to high school learners. She's currently involved in the development of test kits that are intended for rapid mycobacterium tuberculosis diagnosis.
  • Lindo Nkambule leads the development of novel software to analyse large genomic datasets at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. At only 24, his best years are yet to come. Nkambule’s upward trajectory from his roots in Diepsloot and Madadeni took him to a BSc at the University of the Witwatersrand. He then qualified with first-class honours from UCT in 2020.

Tourism and hospitality

Giselle Esau (34) is a UCT alum, and the founding owner of The Mighty and The Mercy. She has signed “big names” to her marketing company during the pandemic. Esau wants people to know that women of colour are a force to be reckoned with. Her goal is to be as great as the next person, and not based on race or gender, but her work — and she wants to empower young South African women to do the same.

If we’ve left anyone out, please let us know.

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