Six of the best: UCT graduates among Rhodes Scholars for 2022

03 December 2021 | Story Helen Swingler. Photo Getty Images. Read time 7 min.
Sixty percent of the 2022 Rhodes Scholars for Southern Africa are UCT graduates. They will embark on postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford next year.
Sixty percent of the 2022 Rhodes Scholars for Southern Africa are UCT graduates. They will embark on postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford next year.

Six of the 10 Rhodes Scholarships for Southern Africa for 2022 have been awarded to University of Cape Town (UCT) graduates. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, applications for this prestigious scholarship for postgraduate study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom rose by 17% last year, said the organisation’s national secretary, Ndumiso Luthuli.

The Rhodes Scholarships were first awarded in 1903, following a significant bequest. Annually, more than 100 Rhodes Scholarships are bestowed on high-achieving young graduates from 60 countries across the world. The 10 Southern African Rhodes Scholars will join a further 92 international students in Oxford, who will make up the Class of 2022.

The six UCT Rhodes Scholars-Elect are:

  • Marinos Lupindo
  • Wakithi Mabaso
  • Gareth McHardy
  • Ruan Spies
  • Kukhokuhle Tsengwa
  • Justin Winchester

Luthuli said that 10 “outstanding young leaders” came from across the Southern African constituency, comprising South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and eSwatini. They include a graduate from eSwatini, thought to be the first from that country, and two from Matatiele, a small town in the Eastern Cape.

“Our 2022 Rhodes Scholars-Elect are diverse in backgrounds and disciplines, but all share the following qualities: academic excellence and intellectual curiosity; energy to use their talents to the fullest; courage to lead and make a difference; moral force of character, quiet determination and integrity; and a commitment to service and making a positive impact on the broader community,” Luthuli said in a statement.

Luthuli added, “The scholars selected have studied a panoply of subjects at the tertiary level, ranging from economics and philosophy, to law and industrial engineering, to medicine and psychology, to electrical engineering and development. 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.”

UCT Scholars-Elect

Lupindo is from Matatiele. She is a clinical psychologist, completing her community service at the Krugersdorp Correctional Centre. She obtained her master’s degree at UCT. Passionate about making mental health services accessible to minority and vulnerable groups, Lupindo co-founded Mind Matters, a mental health NPO. She uses social media platforms to provide psychoeducation and advocacy messages to destigmatise mental illnesses. Lupindo hopes to read for a DPhil at Oxford. Her research will target anxiety and trauma among adolescents, and she hopes to gain skills in short-term interventions at the Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre.

Mabaso graduated cum laude from UCT with an MBChB degree. He published the country’s largest study on depression and anxiety in medical students at the time, and his work has grown to influence institutional mental health policy and national media initiatives, earning him a nomination for a South African Health Excellence, Rising Star Award. He is a founding member of the UCT Internal Medicine Society. As an aspiring clinician-scientist, passionate about mental health, Mabaso intends to read for an MSc Global Health & Epidemiology at Oxford.

McHardy is currently completing a Master of Commerce in Economic Development degree at UCT. He works as a volunteer consultant for Phaphama SEDI and will begin work as a student associate with University Impact, an impact investing firm, in January 2022. He is passionate about solving tough socio-economic problems, specifically the prevalent issue of financial exclusion in sub-Saharan Africa. At Oxford, McHardy intends to read for a DPhil (Economics), investigating the role of financial inclusion in fostering wider economic development on the African continent.

Spies is an aspiring clinician-scientist with an interest in infectious diseases. He hopes to ask important questions about the health of Africans, and to use research as a tool to answer these questions. He graduated from UCT with first-class honours and was the best final-year student in clinical medicine. At UCT, he helped found the Internal Medicine Society, and introduced a peer-tutoring programme for which he has subsequently published a quantitative analysis. At Oxford he intends to read for an MSc Global Health & Epidemiology.

Tsengwa graduated cum laude from the mechatronics engineering programme at UCT. He worked on projects involving autonomous systems such as drones, wireless charging, and as part of a start-up team building a mobile phone-independent panic button. He later joined Toyota South Africa Motors, as part of the team that brought the first hybrid vehicle to South Africa. Tsengwa’s current master’s research uses signal processing techniques to monitor muscle activity non-invasively, with potential applications in orthopaedic and neurological rehabilitation. He will read for a DPhil at Oxford.

Winchester is also from Matatiele and has a Bachelor of Laws degree from UCT. While at UCT, he was an active student leader and decorated public speaker, achieving success nationally and internationally in moot court and debating competitions respectively. He is interested in the public–private divide and the intersection of economics and law, and intends to read for a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) followed by an MPhil in Law at Oxford. Through this, Winchester hopes to better understand and develop the role of private individuals in achieving economic justice and substantive equality in South Africa.

Notable South African Rhodes Scholars include Justice Edwin Cameron, retired Judge of the Constitutional Court, currently the Inspecting Judge of Correctional Services and recipient of the Order of the Baobab (Gold) in 2021; Trudi Makhaya, current economic advisor to President Cyril Ramaphosa; Kumi Naidoo, Secretary-General of Amnesty International and the first African head of Greenpeace International (2009–2015); the late Shaun Johnson, journalist, author and founding CEO of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation; and Eusebius McKaiser, political analyst, lecturer and writer, and former talk show host on Radio 702 and CapeTalk.

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