‘You are the future of UCT’

30 June 2022 | Story Niémah Davids. Photos Robyn Walker. Director Ruairi Abrahams. Videography Ruairi Abrahams and Oatmeal Productions. Video Edit Ruairi Abrahams. Read time 4 min.
VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng said UCT’s success depends on the success of scholars on the 2030 Future Leaders Programme.

On a sunny winter afternoon with Robben Island and Table Bay Harbour in the background, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, reinforced the university’s commitment to its growing cohort of Future Leaders.

Afterall, Professor Phakeng pointed out, UCT’s success is in their hands and depends largely on how well they excel in their disciplines. Phakeng made these comments during a special lunch in honour of the new cohort of researchers to enter the UCT 2030 Future Leaders Programme. The five new members are Dr Susan Cunningham, Dr George Mahashe, Dr Itumeleng Monageng, Dr Elona Toska and Associate Professor Amir Patel. The event was held at the Radisson Blu Hotel at the V&A Waterfront on Tuesday, 28 June.

Phakeng established the programme in 2018 to nurture up-and-coming scholars from various faculties across the university. Members of the programme are selected based on their strong scholarship and on traits that set them apart from other researchers in their respective fields.

Celebrating excellence

The lunch was an opportunity to introduce five new Future Leaders to the existing cohort, to hear about their current research and to break bread in an intimate setting while overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and a private marina. Members of UCT’s leadership lekgotla, including acting deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, Professor Harsha Kathard, and the chief financial officer, Vincent Motholo, were also in attendance.


“Let me remind you about the importance of this group: you are the future of UCT.”

“Let me remind you about the importance of this group: you are the future of UCT … and under my leadership I want to make sure that you succeed,” Phakeng told attendees.

As staff and students work towards attaining UCT’s Vision 2030, Phakeng said everyone has big dreams for the university. But none of those dreams will come true if its cohort of Future Leaders fail to succeed. She reiterated that the sole aim of the programme is to ensure that the group and researchers thrive in their fields, and recommitted her support to them. Phakeng instructed them to reach out to her when they feel that things aren’t going according to plan.

Offering ‘generous’ support

Phakeng reminded attendees that the programme is unique and the only one of its kind where transformation and researchers’ demographics are not taken into consideration. Instead, she said scholars are selected purely on merit.

UCT’s 2030 Future Leaders joined VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng and other members of the leadership lekgotla for an intimate lunch at the Radisson Blu Hotel at the V&A Waterfront.

“It’s one programme where we support generously. We select people [academics] on merit and just support them as they come. And that is important,” she said. “You are here because you are talented; you are here because you are needed. You are here because you are a future leader, not just at UCT but in your discipline.”


“Through this programme we want young people to see what’s possible.”

More than that, she said she also wants the group to demonstrate to incoming UCT students what is possible with hard work and dedication, irrespective of their backgrounds – whether they come from a rural area in Limpopo or an affluent suburb in Cape Town. It’s for this reason that she invited UCT’s blue carpet scholars – 17 of the country’s top matriculants who are now first-year UCT students – to the event.

“The reason I invited them is to be inspired by you and for them to know the right people because that is so important. Through this programme, we want young people to see what’s possible. Those who are at UCT and those talented young people who are connected to you,” Phakeng said.

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