As I reflect on the year gone by, I feel a deep sense of pride in the way team MRF has risen to the challenges and changes required by this historic year. We have learnt many valuable lessons about our work and are excited to integrate these lessons as we continue our efforts in the new year. Below is the final 2020 update from the Foundation, as we head towards the year-end finish line.
Goodbye to our beloved Shaun Johnson
This Monday we celebrated the life of our founding Executive Director Shaun Johnson, on what would have been his 61st birthday. The memorial was scheduled in March but was delayed due to Covid-19. We were finally able to celebrate Shaun’s exceptional life with his family and close friends, at a memorial at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. This was also live streamed, and you can find the whole service here if you missed it.
Wrapping up the Class of 2020
The online completion workshop came to a close in early October. A highlight was a panel discussion offering Pan-African perspectives on gender-based violence. It was moderated by alumnus Mpilo Shabangu (South Africa & Wits, 2017) in conversation with activists and academics Gigi Louisa, Latiyah Orneill, Given Sigauqwe, Dr Chika Eze, Seoketsi Mooketsi, and Dr Baba Buntu. Scholars were also offered a window into life beyond their time in residence through a Living the Legacy conversation with alumni Emile Engel (South Africa & UCT, 2010), Zukiswa Mqolomba (South Africa & UCT, 2010), Gezina Hoxobes (Namibia & UP, 2015), Chris Nkwatsibwe (Uganda & UCT, 2017) and Kudakwashe Manjonjo (Zimbabwe & UCT, 2019). A final highlight was the session on stretch collaboration. Read a thought-provoking reflection on this important leadership skill, written by Class of 2020 scholar Delecia Davids.
The Class of 2020 was the first to experience the Leadership Development Programme partly in person and partly online, after programming went digital following their March pod gathering. This made their in-person graduation on the 30th of October, possible under the Level 1 Covid-19 regulations in South Africa, all the more special. Scholars were able to celebrate in person and hear an inspirational graduation address from our Board Chair Professor Njabulo S. Ndebele.
Welcome to new alumni
Our final alumni event for the year was held on Saturday the 28th of November. The aim was to welcome graduating scholars and strengthen cross-cohort relationships in the community. Alumni enjoyed some meet-and-greet networking and were then invited to choose themed groups for deeper engagement. As always, the conversation could have gone on all day! We are grateful for how the online space has allowed us to easily connect across countries and continents and we look forward to continuing these engagements next year.
We are very proud to announce that the first-ever recipients of the Leverhulme Mandela Rhodes Doctoral Scholarships (now the Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholarships) have both completed their PhDs. Mark John Burke (SA & UCT 2012) and Jolynne Mokaya (Kenya & Stellenbosch 2016) were awarded the scholarship in 2017, and have both recently completed their PhD studies in Land Economy and Clinical Medicine respectively. We are delighted with this closing of the loop and warmly congratulate them both.
Introducing the Class of 2021
For the first time in MRF history, the final round of selections took place virtually. If you missed our release in November, meet the 30 exceptional young Africans who make up the Class of 2021 – their inspiring stories are available here. We are particularly pleased to welcome our first scholars from two additional African countries – Isaac Muapoh (Liberia & UJ, 2021) and Isatu Bokum (The Gambia & Wits, 2021), bringing the total number of countries where Mandela Rhodes Scholars originate from to 30.
After the long winter with Covid-19, life is starting to slowly return to the MRF building. The team is busy introducing our new branding through some minor revamps. We have hope that in the new year we will be able to share the space with you once again, should things hopefully improve to a point where this is possible.
We wish all our stakeholders a peaceful and safe festive season until we connect again in the new year.
Judy Sikuza CEO, The Mandela Rhodes Foundation