200 Young South Africans list: The UCT connection

04 July 2024 | Story Kamva Somdyala. Photo Brenton Geach. Read time 8 min.
The UCT community is represented in the latest young South Africans of 2024.
The UCT community is represented in the latest young South Africans of 2024.

University of Cape Town (UCT) affiliates continue to feature in the annual Mail & Guardian (M&G) list of 200 Young South Africans across several categories.

Every year, the M&G produces a list of young changemakers and influencers who are making an impact in their respective industries. Some of the following young South Africans have or had an affiliation with UCT.


Lesego Makgoba (30) holds an honours in economics from UCT and is the founder and manager of Nation Farming Solutions, a company she started during the COVID-19 lockdown, and which specialises in agri-business consulting, hydroponic systems and shade nets. She also runs a non-profit organisation dedicated to integrating indigenous knowledge systems with modern farming techniques to empower local communities.

Arts and entertainment

Elroy Fillis-Bell (34) is the chief executive of Joburg Ballet, and oversees its entire operations machinery. With a BA honours in drama education and theatre directing from UCT, he has learned how to create a working team culture by carefully observing the way others do things and focusing on mutual respect when dealing with his colleagues.

Ameera Conrad (30) strives to promote the voices of black African women in a space that still has strong elements of racism and patriarchy. She does this through her organisation, 20 Stories High, where she is the creative leader. She holds a BA honours in theatre and performance from UCT. Her job entails not only writing, directing and performing in theatres across the United Kingdom, but also helping to create development programmes for the youth and underrepresented artists.

Dalin Oliver (35) recently completed a five-city tour of Australia, where his show won a Best Weekly Comedy Award at the Fringe World Festival in Perth, one of the world’s biggest Fringe Festivals. He has worked as a master of ceremonies at events including the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, ICC Men’s U19 Cricket World Cup, Netball World Cup and the SA20. He says his comedy is inspired by his experiences as a South African. He holds several Bachelor of Arts degrees from UCT.


Gift Pule (32) works as a private equity principal at Sanlam Private Equity. His job involves investing in well-established mid-market companies, with the ability to influence the decisions and processes of these businesses towards realising their full potential. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Genetics from UCT.

Inam Qoma (33), who holds several degrees from UCT, is the chief executive and co-owner of Rothko Brand Partners. Her job involves helping people and organisations achieve business goals through strategic content marketing. She uses her experience in strategic communications to help business-to-consumer and business-to-business entities, as well as corporates and non-profits, achieve their objectives.

Harry Scherzer (31) co-founded Future Forex in 2020, and with his business partner has grown the company to a team of more than 70 professionals across the country. He is particularly proud of the success of Future Forex’s crypto arbitrage investment product, which has processed more than R25 billion, resulting in about R290 million earned by clients. One of the Future Forex initiatives Harry is excited about is its online forex platform. He holds an actuarial sciences degree from UCT.


Sthabile Kolwa (35), who holds a BSc honours in physics and astronomy from UCT, is responsible for curriculum design, teaching and running undergraduate physics and honours-level astrophysics modules at the University of Johannesburg. Furthermore, she communicates concepts and discoveries in astronomy in online articles and focuses on women and non-binary people who have been effective in the science, tech, engineering and maths fields.

Sibusiso Mdhluli (29) works as the director of the Acornhoek Institute for Science and Technology, which he helped build from scratch. As an astrophysics and space science specialist, he helps to develop new projects to support high schools and to provide digital skills training for unemployed youths. He also works with other organisations, educational institutions and community groups and raises funds for projects. He holds a BSc Honours in Astrophysics and Space Science from UCT.


Ashanti Kutala Mbanga (35) with energy efficiency and sustainability education from UCT is the project manager for energy and environment at the South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi), where she facilitates the implementation of the national energy efficiency appliances standards and labelling programme. Managing project budgets and developing project plans to save the country electricity also forms part of her work. She lists her advocacy for women and youth inclusion in the energy sector as an achievement she is proud of.

Tshilidzi Samuel Ramunenyiwa (28) is a project energy engineer at Reonet, which focuses on smarter management of water and energy resources. He focuses on conducting energy audits, as well as designing, developing and implementing energy-efficient systems. He holds an electrical engineering degree from UCT.


Bonga Masoka (33) is the founding director at Splash Coatings Africa, one of South Africa’s fastest-growing paint brands. Armed with a BSc, his motivation is to provide his family and the company’s employees with more choices in life, such as about where to live, the education of their children, healthcare and security. His company has an initiative called One Bucket Splashed Dreams, which is renovating Grade 1 classrooms in Soweto. So far, they have completed 25 classrooms and four schools.

Film and media

Zola Ayabulela Mhlongo (31) is a radio and TV presenter, actress and entrepreneur. As an influencer, she connects with a wide audience on social media, sharing personal insights, promoting brands and collaborating with companies for marketing campaigns. She sees the youth using technology to develop new platforms, apps and tech solutions that address issues such as healthcare, education and sustainability and driving economic growth. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Drama.

Itumeleng Mpofu (29) works across multiple areas, first at OpenUCT as the person responsible for archiving institutional research, open educational resources and electronic theses and dissertations. He is also involved in the African Platform for Open Scholarship, which contributes to the growth and development of local research, fostering advancement in African society. In his personal capacity, Mpofu founded Break It Down, a social media platform dedicated to simplifying complex political, economic and social issues. A UCT graduate and employee, he majored in politics, philosophy and economics.

Daniel Steyn (27) was one of the people who broke the Thabo Bester escape prison escape story. He has already co-authored a book, titled The Thabo Bester Story, and consulted on a Showmax Original docu-series called Tracking Thabo Bester. He gets his thrill and motivation from investigating issues in South Africa that expose how the decisions made by powerful people affect the most vulnerable, and uncovering truths that result in holding powerful figures accountable for their actions. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television Studies from UCT.

Financial services

Thembisa Vanesa Luthuli (34) is an instructional designer at Sanlam and is responsible for developing and running training courses to meet identified needs and to monitor results so that future courses may be modified. She uses her instructional design tools qualification she obtained from UCT to get her work across.


Jabulisile Shabalala (34) has a certificate in project management from UCT and works as a petitions analyst in the Gauteng Legislature. Part of her job entails administering the petitions process in the province. The process identifies service delivery gaps, policy issues and socio-economic difficulties. She advises members of the provincial legislature’s petitions standing committee in executing performance, monitoring and controlling the petitions process. One of Shabalala’s achievements was her involvement in the development of the Gauteng Petitions Regulations of 2016 to enforce and strengthen the provisions of the Gauteng Petitions Act 5 of 2002. The Act was reviewed to evoke punitive measures for non-compliance and strengthen the provisions of cooperative governance in resolving service delivery issues.

Health and wellness

Biancha Mentoor (34) is a manager in health policy at the healthcare group Netcare. While working towards obtaining her master’s of public health, she specialised in health economics to understand the effect of poorly addressed apartheid-entrenched racial residential segregation on health and healthcare among people in Gauteng. Mentoor – who holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery with distinction from UCT – has been elected as the chair of the Hospital Association of South Africa’s board sub-committee on research and health policy, which allows her to collaborate with colleagues on legislation and regulation.

Legal services

Emogine Bohitile (26) is a candidate legal practitioner at ENSafrica, the biggest law firm in Africa, and is responsible for legal drafting, research, trust registrations and estate administration. She is curious about how technology, especially data and new innovations like artificial intelligence are changing the dynamics in the world. She holds a master’s degree in intellectual property law from UCT.

Mining and manufacturing

Bevan Mongwe (25) holds a BSc in Electrical Engineering from UCT and works for Anglo American Platinum. His practical training involves learning how to use engineering equipment in mines and process plants and shadowing and assisting engineers on site. He is also the co-founder of the Valhuri Community Development Organisation, which teaches learners about the importance of maths and science. He believes that the future of engineering is bright in our country, and has myriad employment opportunities for the youth.

Technology and Innovation

Sange Maxaku (27) is the co-founder and chief product officer at Botlhale AI. The UCT BSc in Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate heads product development, focusing on creating solutions that seamlessly integrate African languages. This involves researching user needs, designing user-friendly interfaces, developing code and overseeing the implementation of the company’s language-inclusive product suite.

Fanelesibonge Mbuyazi (26) is a software engineer at MultiChoice. Part of her focus encompasses coding and leveraging artificial intelligence for business optimisation. In 2022, she became a Black Women in Science Fellow. In 2023, she represented South Africa at the Brics Future Skills for Mobile App Development competition. She has a degree in computer science, film and television, media and writing from UCT.

Jess Rees (29) is the lead data scientist for Discovery, heading up a team that researches, develops and implements machine learning, data science and AI solutions. Together with her team, they are working on a project called Research and Development of the use of Large Language Models for use in operations, which she is proud of, because they have prioritised science and responsibility in their approach and spent much time evaluating the AI to make sure it is working properly. She holds a Bachelor of Business Science from UCT.

Tourism and hospitality

Haydn Henning (27) works as a brand manager at airline company Lift. He is responsible for executing the personality of the airline by ensuring it is consistently presented across all channels, including advertising, marketing, social media, and customer communications. He is the driving force behind the ‘upLift SA’ programme which aims to uplift South Africans by providing them with opportunities and a platform to excel. He holds a Bachelor of Music from UCT.

If we have left anyone out, please accept our sincere apologies and please let us know.

Access the full list.

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