Motsepe Foundation opens doors for graduands with fee debt

10 December 2021 | Story Helen Swingler. Photo Lerato Maduna. Read time 7 min.
Newly installed UCT Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe believes in empowering the youth through education
Newly installed UCT Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe believes in empowering the youth through education

The Motsepe Foundation is funding not only poorly resourced students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in the form of bursaries but also settling graduands’ fee debt so that they can graduate and play their part in nation building.

The Motsepe Foundation was founded in 1999 by UCT Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe and her husband, Dr Patrice Motsepe.

The Motsepe Foundation’s bursary aid to UCT students


Number of

R amount



 1 951 450,52



 2 981 918,06



 5 310 464,34



 4 361 029,85



 5 565 655,29



 5 631 486,80



 6 739 904,70



 9 428 105,40



41 970 014,96


In addition, the chancellor has made an additional generous donation of R2 million to assist students who completed their studies at UCT but were unable to graduate and receive their degree certificates because of student debt.

Thus far 55 students have been assisted to graduate: 37 undergraduates and 18 postgraduates

Student support essential to Vision 2030

All forms of student financial assistance support the university’s Vision 2030: to unleash human potential for a fair and just society, said Shai Makgoba, Risk Compliance and Relationship Management Director in UCT’s Finance Department.

“But as we know, many of our benefactors and providers of financial aid have been hard-hit by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. And so UCT relies on those private and corporate sector donors such as the Motsepe Foundation, who support education and share our vision, to help us realise our goals.”

A former recipient of financial aid from the Motsepe Foundation said that it had opened doors at a crucial time; he was able to settle his fee debt, graduate and take up a prestigious internship abroad.


“I would not have been able to apply for this opportunity if I had not graduated and obtained my degree certificate.”

He wrote, “In 2019/20, I studied an LLM or Master of Laws degree, where I specialised in international law at UCT. I pursued this course of study because I wanted to pursue a career at an intergovernmental organisation. I passed all my courses and dissertation, but would have been unable to graduate if it were not for the financial assistance I received from the Motsepe Foundation.

“Despite the disruptions and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I was able to obtain an internship at the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, which is where I am. I would like to thank
Dr Moloi-Motsepe and the Motsepe Foundation because I would not have been able to apply for this opportunity if I had not graduated and obtained my degree certificate. I wish her well in her new role at the university.”

And thanks to the foundation’s generosity, another recipient Mmangaliso Mnguni, who graduated BSc (Hons) Material Science (first-class) in 2017, was able to settle outstanding fees, graduate and is now a research fellow at the National Research Foundation iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences (iThemba LABS-NRF).

Mnguni wrote: “I will forever be grateful for the assistance I received from the Motsepe Foundation without which I would have not achieved my lifelong ambition of being a UCT graduate. May the foundation continue to grow so it will be able to assist more deserving students in the future.

“I am currently based at iThemba LABS-NRF where I conduct multidisciplinary research that involves ion beam analysis, nano-photonics and material science and I will be submitting a thesis (for MSc Solid State Physics) for examination, based on the result from my work.

“I wish our new chancellor everything of the best during her term of office. Our great institution is indeed in good hands.”

Denisha Ramaloo graduated with a bachelor’s degree in management studies in 2019. After graduating, she joined IHS Markit, a market intelligence firm soon to merge with S&P Global.

“I look forward to the opportunities this will bring as well as to potentially pursuing a postgraduate degree, on a part-time basis, at UCT in 2022,” said Ramaloo.

“While completing my undergraduate studies at UCT, I had the honour of being able to tutor students from disadvantaged communities through organisations such as TeachOut and the Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation. These experiences had fueled my passion for individual growth geared towards the benefit of society.


“Without the support of the Motsepe Foundation and many others, I would have never had access to these life lessons or career opportunities.”

“More than an ever-changing set of hard skills, I am a firm believer that a true education is rooted in values. Without the support of the Motsepe Foundation and many others, I would have never had access to these life lessons or career opportunities – so for this, I am forever grateful.”

Alumnus Nozipho Ntuli shared similar thoughts, “The bursary that I received from the Motsepe Foundation has helped me secure a good job in the IT sector and this would not have been possible if I had not graduated from a university such as UCT. Graduating with a UCT degree opened doors for me and it has set me up for success. I feel excited and positive about my career now that I have a UCT degree, and I am eternally grateful to Dr Moloi-Motsepe for helping me and other students.”

Graduate Sechaba Nkitseng remembers the difficulties he faced as a student. “Looking back at my UCT career as a student, student leader and activist, I have bitter-sweet memories of my time at the institution.” He arrived at UCT in 2013 to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. Nkitseng had grown up facing financial hardship but arriving at university the many challenges he faced heightened “the unfortunate realities of where I grew up and the conditions of marginalised black South Africans”.

“It became impossible to hide in the lab as an escape for my true calling, which was to face head-on the issues that still burden our country. I knew then that whatever my future profession would be, I had to become an instrument of change. To do that, I had to make difficult academic decisions to better understand the nuanced realities of South Africa and to fearlessly participate in the retelling of our story.”

But the decision had severe financial implications, he said. He switched his focus to social sciences, grappling with ideas of race, class, history and gender “to give context to the representations which had come to define me”.

Nkitseng graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Social Sciences (International Relations and Economics) and the following year with an honours in African studies.

“Like many black South Africans, I was funded by NSFAS for most of my undergraduate studies but experienced great difficulty in financing my honours programme. This led to me not being able to graduate – or even see my marks.” This and other difficult personal circumstances left him feeling directionless. He was unable to find employment or study further. But this changed December 2020 when he received an email from UCT. It brought good news; through the generosity of
Dr Moloi-Motsepe, he would finally graduate – and on his birthday!

“I watched the virtual ceremony from my then fast-food business in the township with tears [remembering] the journey that had felt impossible to overcome. This moment would symbolise the beginning of a new chapter for me. I am currently pursuing my master’s in global media and communications at the London School of Economics on a full LSE scholarship.

“I hope that my journey inspires those [who] continue to fight against inequality and that through my work, I can amplify their voices – and like Dr Moloi-Motsepe did for me, shed light on their journeys and stories. Although the journey has been long, I know that the story is yet to be told. Ke a leboga Dr Moloi-Motsepe!"

Alumnus Bokang Taoana said that the financial support had changed her life at a time she had nowhere to turn.

“Last year in December, you gave me a chance to breathe easier and to begin my journey of peace. When I came to UCT, I was partially funded however, the funding offered was not enough to even scratch the surface of how much I needed for that year. I have always believed that money can never be the reason I cannot achieve my dreams or my goals so I knew I would make a plan to come up with the money to pay. How? I had no cooking clue. Little did I know that I would be challenged in a way I had never experienced in my life.

“The year was not gracious to me. I fell into a severe depression among my struggles… After a year of trying to get funding and trying to pay my school fees off myself, I had lost all hope and did not have the strength to write another letter, beg the university to assist or dehumanise myself any further because I could not afford to pay off my fees. If it was not for my best friend and her mum, I would not be writing this letter to you today, nor would I know that I was worthy of miracles.  On the 11th December 2020, I received an email that changed my life. The relief funding afforded me an opportunity to experience financial freedom in all my years in university. I literally cried for a week straight because I could not believe that God could have been so gracious to me to place a stranger in my life that would help me in a way that nobody ever has. I sat for days on end trying to find a way to thank you.”

Supporting education

In 2013 the Motsepe family were the first in Africa to join the Giving Pledge, started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet.

The Motsepe Foundation’s assistance to UCT students underpins their belief in the positive impact of education “operating as a force that can break the cycle of poverty and improve well-being in society”.

The foundation was founded on the African philosophy of ubuntu: giving and caring for neighbours and community. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for all, particularly the unemployed, women, youth, workers and marginalised communities in South Africa.

The foundation also supports projects that have the potential to assist beneficiaries become
self-reliant. It supports five programmes: education and leadership; gender equality, wellness and leadership; community development; sport, music and arts; and social cohesion.

Acknowledging the need for all stakeholders to play a role in ensuring the youth in South Africa are educated, the foundation has embarked on programmes that give disadvantaged youth an equal chance at quality education. Graduates who have been supported by the Motsepe Foundation become part of the Motsepe Foundation Alumni.

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