Madiba shapes another life

A stu­dent for­tu­nate enough to have been se­lected for the first Man­dela Rhodes Foun­da­tion (MRF) schol­ar­ship and to meet Madiba says that the fu­ture be­longs to those who pre­pare for it by em­pow­er­ing them­selves with knowl­edge.

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The course of Dr Buntu Godong­wana’s life changed for­ever when he re­ceived a schol­ar­ship from the Man­dela Rhodes Foun­da­tion in 2005

Strug­gle icon and for­mer Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela said: “Ed­u­ca­tion is the great en­gine of per­sonal de­vel­op­ment. It is through ed­u­ca­tion that the daugh­ter of a pheas­ant can be­come a doc­tor, the son of a mineworker can be­come head of the mine and the child of a farm worker can be­come the pres­i­dent of a great na­tion.”

Dr Buntu Godong­wana, 35, one of eight stu­dents to re­ceive an in­au­gu­ral MRF schol­ar­ship in 2005, is ev­i­dence of this.

“Our pro­gres­sion from hum­ble begin­nings in Gugulethu, Cape Town, to shar­ing ideas on in­ter­na­tional plat­forms with world lead­ers in our dis­ci­pline is liv­ing tes­ti­mony of Madiba’s words,” he said.

Godong­wana, now a lec­turer at the De­part­ment of Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing at the Cape Penin­sula Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (CPUT), said the schol­ar­ship is a spe­cial award.

“Be­ing se­lected in the in­au­gu­ral co­hort will al­ways be a high­light of my aca­demic ca­reer. It’s more than a mon­e­tary award, it served as af­fir­ma­tion of our val­ues and recog­ni­tion of our lead­er­ship po­ten­tial.

“It came with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of set­ting the tone and

bench­mark for fu­ture schol­ars; liv­ing the prin­ci­ples of lead­er­ship, as em­bod­ied by pa­tron Man­dela; and giv­ing sub­stance and form to his vi­sion of build­ing ex­cep­tional lead­er­ship ca­pac­ity in Africa. I was truly hum­bled and hon­oured to be a part of this great vi­sion,” he said.

Born in Gugulethu in 1983, Dr Godong­wana ma­tric­u­lated from Fezeka Sec­ondary School as the best aca­demic achiever in 2000. He com­pleted his un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies in Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing in 2004 and, along with be­ing awarded the schol­ar­ship, was named the Learn­ing Cape Fes­ti­val Icon by the West­ern Cape Gov­ern­ment in 2005. He com­pleted his Master’s de­gree (cum laude) at CPUT in 2007 and reg­is­tered for a PhD de­gree in Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing in 2008.

But his suc­cess didn’t stop there. Dur­ing his doc­tor­ate stud­ies, Dr Godong­wana was awarded a Ful­bright schol­ar­ship, as a vis­it­ing re­searcher for 12 months, to Mon­tana State Uni­ver­sity in the United States.

A bright fu­ture

The MRF schol­ar­ship cer­tainly set the tone for Dr Godong­wana’s bright fu­ture.

“The lead­er­ship train­ing of­fered by the foun­da­tion in­stilled in us a sense of ser­vice and duty and a com­mit­ment to eth­i­cal lead­er­ship.

“Our as­so­ci­a­tion with Madiba’s name has been valu­able in ex­pand­ing our per­sonal and pro­fes­sional net­works, be­ing in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in var­i­ous plat­forms and given us the op­por­tu­nity to in­spire young peo­ple to be­come agents of change in their com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

Dr Godong­wana had a beam­ing smile on his face when he met Man­dela at the MRF launch at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town.

“It was a brief en­counter. I can­not re­mem­ber his ex­act words, but I nod­ded ap­prov­ingly at each word from the great man. Madiba’s pres­ence over­whelmed the en­tire hall,” he said.

This Man­dela Month, Dr Godong­wana urges South Africans to re­flect on the mean­ing of Man­dela.

“In re­cent years we have seen a de­cline in the qual­ity of po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship in South Africa and have seen un­eth­i­cal con­duct by busi­ness lead­ers on a scale un­like any other. A coun­try that was once thought to be a beam­ing light of hope is now threat­ened by so­cial and eco­nomic up­heavals.

“The spirit of dia­logue, vi­sion of a united coun­try, un­com­pro­mis­ing eth­i­cal con­duct and im­pu­dence to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo are core traits of Man­dela’s be­ing. The chal­lenge is to em­brace the spirit of Madiba and live up his stan­dards,” he said.

Dr Buntu Godong­wana was one of eight stu­dents to re­ceive an in­au­gu­ral MRF schol­ar­ship in 2005.

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