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2019 Alumni Awards

2019 Alumni Awards - 10th Anniversary 

Nelson Mandela University Alumni Awards recognise alumni who have gone the distance and beyond in their various fields, to the benefit of society at local, provincial, national and international level. A number of outstanding nominations were received by the Alumni Association's Executive Committee and in the spirit of the University's values, it is proud to present its 2019 recipients. 

(From left) Rising Star Litha Soyizwapi, Achiever Robin West, Rising Star Dr Thakane Ntholi, Achiever Quinton Uren, and Rising Star Mzukisi Kota. Judy Sikuza accepted the award in absentia.



 Delivering world-class assembly facilities to the   automotive sector has led to global success for Bay   company Jendamark Automation, which has founder and   Managing Director Quinton Uren at its helm. The
 company exports manufacturing assembly solutions   incorporating Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies,     to countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, North America   and South America. Uren studied mechanical engineering   at what is now Nelson Mandela University in the late   1980s and got his first   taste of automotive engineering   as part of the General Motors cooperative training   scheme. He soon realised he wanted to be his own boss   and, after acquiring two Computer-Assisted Design   (CAD) workstations, started his side business, Nasquin   Designs. This became a full-time operation and, in 1992,   Nasquin joined   forces with Jendamark Electronic   Component Industries –   combining their synergies in software, electrical, electronic and mechanical design to form Jendamark Automation. Following the global economic recession of 2008, Jendamark expanded its focus to the export market – and the business has gone from strength to strength, with sales offices established in Germany and the United States and a full manufacturing facility in India. The company has twice received the Eastern Cape Exporter of the Year Award and in 2018, Uren was named Industrialist of the Year at the CNBC Africa All Africa Business Leaders Awards.


 Netherlands-based Robin West is Vice-President of   Expedition Operations for Seabourn, an ultra-luxury   cruise line, which travels to more than 170 iconic World   Heritage Sites as the official cruise partner of the United   Nations Educational, Scientific and         Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) World Heritage   programme. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, the   six-star cruise line operates all around the world, with   trips ranging from short seven-day Caribbean cruises to   exotic 100-plus-day around-the-world adventures. In his   role as vice-president, West, who studied Human   Movement Sciences at what is now Nelson Mandela   University in the 1990s, is responsible for the overall   planning and management of all aspects of Seabourn’s   expedition operations to Antarctica, the Arctic and other   destinations around the globe. West is also a Member of   the Executive Committee of the International Association   of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), which promotes safe and environmentally-responsible private sector travel to the Antarctica and comprises more than 100 respected companies and organizations worldwide. In 2015, West received a Seabourn award for Leadership Excellence for helping Seabourn achieve its highest ratings yet. Seabourn is one of 10 cruise line brands within the Carnival Corporation Group, the world’s largest travel leisure company, with a combined fleet of over 100 vessels. West, who started his career as the owner and operator of two adventure companies, has worked in the expedition industry for 15 years, acquiring a deep knowledge of some of the most remote and exciting places in the world. Based on his knowledge and experience he now heads up Seabourn’s latest development, two new ultra-luxury purpose build expedition vessels.



Mzukisi Kota is a Partner at Johannesburg-based Webber Wentzel, one of the top law firms in the country, and the most recent recipient of the coveted African Law Firm of the Year at the 2019 African Legal Awards. Involved in legislating towards a more sustainable environment, Kota specialises in energy and infrastructure projects, matters of public law, and the regulation of particular industries or sectors. In the energy sector, he advised the South African Department of Energy in the development and implementation of its highly-acclaimed Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme and drafted amendments to legislation and government policy documents in the energy space. He has also advised a broad range of clients in respect of projects across the energy, petroleum pipelines, gas, rail, ports and mining industries and sectors. Kota graduated with an LLB degree from Nelson Mandela University in 2007 and was awarded a Skye Foundation scholarship to read his Advanced LLM in the Netherlands in 2009. In 2018, he was recognised by Chambers Global as an Up and Coming Outstanding Lawyer in the field of public law. He is a member of the Law Society of the Northern Province, has co-authored a chapter on Project Finance for The Law Review and is published in numerous print media on a wide range of issues, including land expropriation without compensation and the proposed Eskom restructuring. 
Dr Thakane Ntholi is passionate about applied geology and its contribution towards sustainable management of natural resources. She is also zealous about demystifying science, especially and making it more accessible to students and communities. She obtained her PhD in Geology and Earth Stewardship Science in 2017, with her research focusing on using leading-edge technology to treat acid mine water in the deep gold mines of South Africa, managing and reversing its damaging environmental impact. The model she developed, called the Passive Underground Mine-Water Purification System (PUMPS), is undergoing further research with the aim of implementing it in the Witwatersrand gold mines in the near future. She has been part of many research and training visits nationally and internationally, including a research visit to the Geomicrobiology Group at the Department of Geoscience at Princeton University, United States, as well as a visit to the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany. Her unique scientific expertise has seen her rise quickly through the professional ranks of the Council for Geoscience in South Africa, where she is the Acting Mapping Programme Coordinator. She is also the Council’s project manager for the Mine Environment and Water Management Programme. In both roles, Dr Ntholi uses multidisciplinary science approach to ensure efficient execution of the Council’s Scientific programs and projects. Dr Ntholi has also guest lectured at various institutions, including Nelson Mandela University, the University of Cape Town and the University of Free State. Awards she has received include the Golden Key (UCT Chapter) in 2013 and first prize in a Science Slam competition, hosted through the South African-German 2012/2013 Year of Science in Berlin, Germany. As part of giving back to science, Dr Ntholi partakes in various science communication initiatives such as Fame Lab, Science Spaza and Science Slam.
Psychology Honours graduate Judy Sikuza is the Chief Executive Officer of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF), which provides postgraduate scholarships and leadership training opportunities to Africans who show leadership potential, in line with its overarching mission to build exceptional leadership in Africa. Sikuza, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar herself in 2007, joined MRF in 2014 and has held several managerial and director positions as head of the Foundation’s flagship Scholarships and Leadership Development Programme. She was one of the instrumental players in the successful execution of the 2013 to 2018 strategy to double the number of Mandela Rhodes Scholars in Residence and has also led key strategic projects for the Foundation, such as its 15-year impact study and the 100 Scholars for Madiba’s 100th celebrations. Since 2014, she has represented the Foundation as a non-executive board director of Oxford University Press (Southern Africa), chairing the board's social and ethics committee. Sikuza has been invited as a keynote speaker, panellist, moderator and programme director on several public platforms locally and internationally for institutions such as the Graca Machel Trust, Obama Foundation, Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Oxford University and various school principals’ association conferences. Other achievements include being selected as one of Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellows and Michelle Obama’s Young African Women Leaders.
Graphic design graduate and self-taught software app developer, Xolisa Soyizwapi, is the founder and Creative Director of Glyfik4 Branding and Design and Lightos Digital, serving a range of top clients including Jabu Stone Natural Hair Care, Nedbank, and South African Tourism. He is also the designer and developer of GauRider, a mobile app that helps people track bus and train times for the rail network service Gautrain. The app reached number one in the travel category of the iPhone, in the South African AppStore. He is currently developing a South African taxi app using machine learning. He also consults on design and technology. Highly-regarded in international technology circles, Soyizwapi is a sought-after public speaker, having been invited to speak at respected national and global conferences including TEDx Soweto, TEDx Johannesburg, the Creativate Digital Festival in Makhanda, Release Notes in Indianapolis, United States (a conference for independent developers who have their own successful businesses, as a result of developing apps using Apple’s iOS and Mac systems), Layers in San Jose, California, and Accenture Digital Talks, which are live-streamed across the world.
The Nelson Mandela University Choir is presented with a Special Award in recognition of 25 years of excellent music and ambassadorship by all those who served this choir. The choir proudly represented the University nationally and internationally and had the opportunity to perform for Queen Elizabeth II as well as our namesake Nelson Mandela.





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