‘Tell them about the dream’

14 December 2018 | Story Carla Bernardo. Photos Michael Hammond. Read time 6 min.
Gerda Kruger, Executive Director: Communication and Marketing Department, hoods her son Siya Kruger at the Humanities graduation event, as Chancellor Graça Machel and VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng look on.
Gerda Kruger, Executive Director: Communication and Marketing Department, hoods her son Siya Kruger at the Humanities graduation event, as Chancellor Graça Machel and VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng look on.

During an historic day at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where a special graduation was held alongside the robing of Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, students from the Faculty of Humanities graduated, academic staff were honoured, and an alumnus returned to inspire.

Highlights of the afternoon programme yesterday, 13 December, included Chancellor Graça Machel presenting the 2018 Book Award to Professor David Wardle for his work Suetonius: Life of Augustus.

Dr Sara Matchett, Professor Hendrik Hofmeyr and Associate Professor Svea Josephy were the worthy recipients of the 2018 Creative Works awards, also presented by Machel.

Following the awards, Phakeng introduced keynote speaker Maanda Tshifularo, who returned a decade after his own graduation to encourage the graduands to pursue a life of learning.

ʻThis is only the beginningʼ

Almost 10 years to the day that he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, Tshifularo, head of Dialdirect insurance company, echoed the words he had heard on that special occasion.

Tell them about the dream
UCT alumnus and Dialdirect insurance company head Maanda Tshifularo addresses the Humanities graduation ceremony yesterday.

“This is only the beginning,” he said, recalling the advice from Professor Eric van Steen, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering.

These words, said Tshifularo, have carried him through eight qualifications, including a masterʼs in business leadership from the University of South Africa and a postgraduate diploma in financial planning from the Milpark Business School. He is now pursuing his PhD in financial capacity and literacy through the University of Johannesburg.


“You can do and achieve everything you put your minds to.”

He recalled how emotional graduation day was, having made it to UCT from a rural village in Limpopo. His mother, a domestic worker for most of her life, raised three children on her R300 monthly salary.

He remembered the journey of “studying under trees, tents and in incomplete structures”, finally making his way into the lecture halls of UCT.

Despite the many odds stacked against him, Tshifularo has transitioned from chemical engineering to finance, and has moved through leading roles at MTN, Discovery and 1Life to his current status as head of one of the country’s top insurers.

Faculty of Humanities graduands celebrate their achievements following a ceremony at which they were urged to chase their dreams.

“Yes, it is possible, you can make it … You can do and achieve everything you put your minds to,” he said.

Lifelong learning attitude

But, he cautioned, to succeed in this “complex and changing world”, graduates must adopt a lifelong learning attitude, as well as nurture and grow their connections. To the amusement of the packed, newly-renamed Sarah Baartman Hall, he spoke of the ways he has had to step out of his comfort zone to make and nurture his own network.

“For a Venda boy, I had to take up golf… Can you believe it?” he said, adding cycling and running to the list of activities he took up to grow his connections.

Tell them about the dream
2018 Creative Works awards winners Dr Sara Matchett (centre left), Assoc Prof Svea Josephy (centre right) and Prof Hendrik Hofmeyr (second from right), on the podium during the Humanities graduation ceremony.

To succeed, the graduates will need to do the same, and “leap beyond the fences of textbooks”.

Life after graduation won’t be “a walk on a Cape Town beach”, Tshifularo warned. Instead, they will have to “be courageous”, and be prepared to fail and “bounce back, and back again”.

“I have failed more times than I care to remember,” he added, saying that the ability to bounce back stood him in good stead.

Concluding his speech, he made reference to Martin Luther King’s iconic “I have a dream” speech. He noted how King had stayed up until 04:00 on 28 August 1963, going through his notes, perfecting the speech approved by his advisers.

But, come that historic moment, King was visibly losing track of the text. Seeing this, his friend and fellow activist Mahalia Jackson called out to him from the crowd: “Tell them about the dream!”.

That dream, Tshifularo said, was not part of the original speech because King’s advisers thought it lacked substance and gravitas.

Tell them about the dream
A smiling Chancellor Graça Machel addresses the Humanities graduation ceremony.

But, because he was true to himself, King proceeded to deliver among the most memorable words in history: “I have a dream…”

And with that, Tshifularo called again for graduates to be courageous, to leap beyond that fence, and “tell them about the dream”.

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Creative works and book awards

UCT recognises and celebrates major creative works and outstanding books produced by members of staff at the university.

Twin cities connect struggle and liberation sites Associate Professor Svea Josephy received a Creative Works Award for her solo exhibition, Satellite Cities, at today’s graduation. It is one of three such awards. 13 Dec 2018
Symphony of elements wins Creative Works Award Professor Hendrik Hofmeyr, of the South African College of Music, receives a Creative Works Award at today’s graduation for his composition Second Symphony – The Elements. 13 Dec 2018
Creative Works Award for Womb of Fire Dr Sara Matchett’s Creative Works Award winner, Womb of Fire, addresses how centuries of violence in South Africa continue to play out on women’s bodies. 13 Dec 2018
UCT Book Award for classics scholar Professor David Wardle’s work Suetonius: Life of Augustus has won him the 2018 UCT Book Award. 13 Dec 2018

Inspired to achieve

Read about some of our remarkable students who are graduating this season.

Four doctors, two families make it a double It’s not often that two sets of brothers who are close friends graduate from the same two faculties – and each with the title of doctor. 14 Dec 2018
Commitment, passion and dogged determination Due to graduate with a PhD in Medical Biochemistry, Kehilwe Nakedi reflects on her academic journey and the pleasure of seeing things finally fall into place. 12 Dec 2018
UCT remedies a past injustice The story of Raymond Suttner receiving his LLM from UCT almost half a century after withdrawing his thesis from examination has captured imaginations around the country. 11 Dec 2018
Unspeakable tragedy yields master’s degree When Mabuyi Mhlanga’s young daughter died in a car accident two years ago, she channelled her grief into addressing the issue of road safety around schools. 11 Dec 2018
‘I want to reach the places my father did not’ Tafadzwa Mushonga will be the first PhD graduate from the Centre for Environmental Humanities South, forging ahead from where her father left off. 10 Dec 2018
A passion for education From a young age, masterʼs graduand Sonwabo Ngcelwane has seen education as the key to rising above one’s circumstances – no matter how challenging. 10 Dec 2018
Never too late to overcome the odds PhD candidate Witness Kozanayi relied on his determination, the support and sacrifice of others, and a fascination for his homeland to fuel his academic success. 07 Dec 2018
Growing pesticide, lead threat to vultures Vultures play a vital housekeeping role in the wild, but like many African raptors they’re threatened by pesticide and heavy metal poisoning, says PhD candidate Beckie Garbett. 07 Dec 2018

Golden memories

Members of the University of Cape Town’s class of 1968 will reunite to celebrate their Golden Graduation this week. Madi Gray, a veteran of the nine-day Bremner sit-in of 1968, will be among those UCT alumni celebrating this milestone.