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2015 Alumni Awards

2015 Alumni Awards

CELEBRATING OUR ALUMNI... Ruan Viljoen (back from left), Nicholas Graham, Gugu Nxiweni, Prof Lennox Nqkubela Ruxwana, Songezo Zibi and Patrick (Paddy Upton), Kevin Hustler (front from left), Andrew Hannington, Michelle Brown and Zola Yeye




SPORTSWOMAN Zanele Mdodana is a former national netball player and captain who was listed among the Mail and Guardian’s “200 Young South Africans” for 2014. Last year also saw her being named a sports star ambassador by the Sport for Good Hope Foundation, and she was honoured as a South African Sport Heroine by Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula.


The BTech Sport Management graduate is a Sport Manager at NMMU. Her responsibilities as Sport Manager include managing tennis, squash, table tennis and chess. She also manages high performance sport programmes for NMMU students as well as provincial and national sporting bodies.

Zanele is a regular guest speaker at high schools and women’s events and a varsity netball commentator for Supersport. She is also an NMMU netball coach, and the founder of the Vision Girls Netball Academy.


Her own sporting achievements includes captaining the Spar Protea Netball Senior Team from 2012 to 2013, participating in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, New Delhi in 2010 and Melbourne in 2006, as well as the Netball World Cup in Singapore in 2011. She was South Africa’s Netball Player of the Year in 2009.


She was the provincial representative at the 2005 World Youth Netball Championships in Miami, the Eastern Province Netball Academy Player of the year in 2005 and 2009, and the NMMU Netball Player of the Year for the same years. She played for the Eastern Cape Comets Netball Team from 2007 to 2009, captaining the team in 2009. That same year, she received the Eastern Cape Sportswoman of the Year Premier’s Award. Mdodana is also an ambassador for the renowned sporting organisation the Laureus Sport For Good Hope Foundation.




2014 was a big year for Gugu Nxiweni. Internationally, he was honoured as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Nationally, he was recognised by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) as one of the “top 35 under-35 Chartered Accountants (SA)” and he was named in Destiny Man Magazine’s “Power of 40” report.

2014 was also the year that he co-founded the Improvate Group of Companies, which focuses on infrastructure -related opportunities that uplift the community. Nxiweni is the Executive Chairman of the Group. After graduating from NMMU with his BCom Hons (Accounting) degree in 2002, Nxiweni devoted two years to building up the Emmanuel Haven HIV/AIDS NGO, which was then in its early stages.

The model he developed and implemented as CEO of Emmanuel Haven resulted in the NGO receiving numerous awards, including winning the “health category” award in London’s World Leadership Awards in 2007. Currently, through the Improvate Group, Nxiweni is spearheading the turnaround strategy of the

Emmanuel Haven project, with a view to restoring the project to its former glory, for the benefit of Motherwell and the wider Bay community. In 2010, at the age of 30, he was admitted as a partner at KPMG - a leading international professional services firm - and was responsible for the Eastern Cape Management Consulting practice. He went on to hold numerous leadership roles at KPMG, including being national lead partner for rural development services.

In Nelson Mandela Bay in 2013, Nxiweni became the youngest recipient of the Honours Tie award (awarded by SAICA trainee accountants of Port Elizabeth) in recognition of his contribution towards the Chartered Accountancy profession. In 2012, he featured among the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber’s “Top 40 under 40”, the same year in which he was recognized as one of the Inaugural Rising Star Finalist as Top 4 in Finance and Accounting. Outside of formal employment, Nxiweni has served in various capacities on the Black Management Forum.



PROF Nkqubela Ruxwana was just 26 when he completed his PhD in Information Technology in 2010. Six years later, he is an Associate Professor at Tswane University of Technology in Pretoria – a world away from the rural village of Qumbu where he was raised.

Ruxwana has extensive industry experience in domains such as business analysis, strategy, project management, business intelligence, enterprise architecture, ICT for Development (ICT4D) and health informatics (which is a specialisation linking IT and healthcare to improve patient care). He has worked for major companies, like Telkom, Vodacom, Nedbank and also the Department of Trade and Industry.

Some of his many awards include M&G Young South African 2015 Award, Best Paper Presentation Award at the International Association for Development of the Information Society (IADIS) conference in 2011, an International Development Research Centre (IDRC) PhD Research Grant on ICT for Development in 2010, Best Employee Sportlight Award in 2008, 2005 and 2004 and the best manager award in 2012 and 2013.



Ruan Viljoen is a Vice President of Engineering at ACI Worldwide – a global company with 4,500 employees, 5,000 clients and an annual revenue exceeding US$1 billion – where he plays a leading role in product development of ACI’s Merchant Retail, Payment Risk Management and Mobile solutions.

Viljoen, who completed his BCom (Computer Science and Information Systems) Cum Laude in 2000, is responsible for managing and growing ACI’s development centre in Cape Town, focusing on the Postilion product suite for retailers and financial institutions, used by 14 of the leading retailers globally. Within his portfolios, he manages a team of about 250 people, working in South Africa, India, Russia, Romania, United States of America and the Netherlands.

Viljoen is a member of NMMU’s Industry Advisory Board and an invaluable partner of NMMU’s Computing Sciences Department. For the past four years he has sponsored a visit by the top graduate from this department to ACI’s Cape Town offices. He was also instrumental in facilitating a once-off R80 000 sponsorship, which went towards revamping the Department’s Honours lecture venue into a 20 PC laboratory, improving the teaching of Honours modules.

He has secured ACI funding for four undergraduate bursaries worth R300 000 in total per annum for top students across South Africa, and his firm has employed many Computing Sciences graduates over the years. Earlier this year, he was awarded the Department’s prestigious “Industry Ambassador Award” for his ongoing support.



SONGEZO Zibi, an NDip Public Relations Management graduate, started his career as an intern in corporate communications at Volkswagen South Africa in1998, running the company newsletter. Today, as editor-in-chief of Business Day, he is one of the youngest newspaper editors in South Africa.

Zibi’s skills as a VW intern were quickly noticed, and he was promoted to Public Relations Officer for the company’s motorsport division, before taking over as PR manager for the VW brand in Southern Africa. In 2006, he joined Xstrata (now Glencore Xstrata) as Communications Manager and became a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and Social Ethics Committee in 2010.

He has authored opinion articles for various national publications on politics, political economy and ethics. In June 2013, he joined Financial Mail as Senior Associate Editor. In 2014, he was appointed as editor of Business Day. Zibi has written a book called Raising the Bar: Hope and renewal in South Africa, which is in its second print run.



MICHELLE Brown’s name is synonymous with public relations, not only in the metro but in South Africa, thanks to an exemplary career, which has seen her travel the globe and work with the rich and famous. She founded her company, Brown’s PR, 27 years ago and has taken it from strength to strength.

The PR Diploma graduate, who was the Bay’s Media Officer during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, coordinated “The Royal Dinner”, attended by Prince Edward and Sophie of Wessex. She worked with event guru Colin Cowie at an Oprah Winfrey function in the United States. She has organized breakfasts with sporting legends like Sir Viv Richards, Jake White, Francois Pienaar, Joel Stransky, Kobus Wiese and Gary Bailey; put together corporate lunches and book launches with Raymond Ackerman, David Bullard, Lucas Radebe and Pieter-Dirk Uys; and run PR campaigns for the Marc Lottering Show, the Moscow Circus, the St Petersburg Russian Ballet Theatre, and the Raymond Mhlaba Trust, to name a few.

She has provided sponsorship advice and alignment for major events, and she has run beauty pageants such as Miss Port Elizabeth and Diwali Queen. She was the first female president of the Rotary Club of Algoa Bay and the first woman on the Board of Governors at Grey High School. She owns Fashion Unlimited Modelling Agency and has been the Businesswomen’s Association (BWA) Chair in Gqeberha (former Port Elizabeth) for the last three years.



SINCE 2009, BSc Quantity Surveying graduate Kevin Hustler has been CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber. The Chamber represents approximately 800 volunteer member companies, who between them employ about 60,000 staff members working within the Nelson Mandela Bay region.

In 2011, Hustler received the Professional Management Review (PMR) Africa Diamond Arrow Leaders and Achievers Award for outstanding service and contribution to economic growth in the Eastern Cape, and in 2012, the PMR Africa Gold Arrow Leaders and Achievers Award. Hustler has enjoyed a very diverse career. His former positions include Head of Linkage Programmes for Rift Valley Railways (in Kenya) from 2007 to 2008.

Prior to that, he was a shareholder in a major real estate franchise. From 2000 to 2005, he was Managing Director of Business Against Crime Eastern Cape, during which time he received the 2002 IMM Eastern Cape Marketer of the Year Award, as well as the Eastern Cape Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

He is also a former Operations Manager for SPAR Eastern Cape and won the SPAR Group Retail Operations Manager of the Year Award in 1995. As head of the Business Chamber, Hustler is determined to advance socioeconomic change in Nelson Mandela Bay and create an enabling environment where businesses can prosper.



ZOLA Yeye, who holds a Master’s degree in Political Science, is known for many roles, ranging from rugby legend and sporting icon to award-winning journalist, marketing expert and philanthropist. He is the Provincial General Manager of SABC (Eastern Cape). His previous positions with the SABC include being National Assignment Editor (Johannesburg) and Regional News Editor for TV and Radio (Eastern Cape). He was the Executive Producer of Newshour, and was news anchor during the country’s general elections in 1994 and 1999.

His sporting highlights include being awarded Rugby Springbok colours in 2000. He was Springbok Manager in 2007 when the Boks won the Rugby World Cup. Yeye has received a string of sporting awards. The EP Sport Council honoured him for “Contribution in Non-Racial Sport” while the Minister of Sports & Recreation honoured him for “Contribution in Sports during Apartheid years”.

In 2007, he won the sports category in the Herald Citizen of the Year event. Yeye was awarded fellowships from the British Council (United Kingdom) and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies (Florida, United States) and he was an intern at one of the world’s biggest TV news stations CNN (United States).





London-based Nicholas Graham is the Global Director of Digital Marketing for Huawei Technologies – a leading global ICT solutions provider with a revenue of US$46,5 billion. Huawei is a Global Fortune 500 member, and is listed among the top 100 global brands. The company employs more than 150,000 employees in over 170 countries.

Graham was the 2014 Tallow Chandlers Prize Winner for Digital Transformation in Media. His NMMU qualifications include BCom and BCom Hons degrees as well as an MA in English from NMMU. His other qualifications include an Executive MBA degree (with merit) in Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship from Cass Business School in London and a master’s degree in Design Studies from London’s University of the Arts.

Graham is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce and an Advocate for Tech London Advocates, an advocacy group that aims to support technology start-ups. Previously, he was Digital Partnerships Director atBazaarvoice, a publicly traded eCommerce SaaS company (the acronym standing for Software as a Service), and prior to that he was Chief Digital Officer at Walker Media.

Before that, he spent 10 years managing high performance business units, including agencies and publishers. He has successfully pitched for over £100 million of digital business. He has authored two books – Pivoting the Traditional Media Agency: Strategic Options for Increasing Digital Media Revenues (published 2013) and Personalisation in Digital Advertising: Transforming Brands to Produce More Visually Engaging Communications (published 2011).



BCom Hons (Accounting) graduate Andrew Hannington is the CEO of Grant Thornton Johannesburg, which has 60 directors and close to 500 staff members. One of the largest accounting firms in South Africa, Grant Thornton audits 45 of 400 companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and consults to a further 30, with billings of more than R600 million annually.

Hannington, who started his career in a small accounting and audit firm in Gqeberha (former Port Elizabeth) in the late 1970s, oversaw the merger between Grant Thornton Johannesburg and the former PKF Johannesburg, one of the largest mergers in South Africa’s accounting profession in the last decade. Prior to the merger, he was CEO and Africa Chairman of PKF.

His passion is using his expertise and keen business acumen, built up over 35 years in the industry, to help businesses grow to the point where they can be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. He is often approached by the media for industry commentary. He is a member of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA).



ASTUTE performance and leadership coach Patrick (Paddy) Upton is Head Coach to two international cricket teams – the Rajasthan Royals, in the Indian Premier League, and Sydney Thunder, in the Australian Big Bash League. He is a former Performance Director for the Proteas – and was also the Performance Coach of the Indian team which won the 2011 World Cup.

Upton, who completed his BA (Hons) Biokinetics degree at NMMU in 1991, is the Owner of Paddy Upton Coaching, which focuses on Leadership and Performance Coaching for both teams and individuals. He is also a professional speaker, who challenges people to think differently about how they are leading teams.

His past positions include being the Strategic Leadership Coach for the Western Cape’s Provincial Government, a High Performance Coach at Pune Warriors, another IPL cricket team, and founding partner and Managing Director at Street Universe, an NPO working with street children.


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