By | April 7, 2022

Acclaimed paediatric cardiologist and former Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, the late Professor Lungile Pepeta, celebrated media personality, Noxolo Grootboom, and struggle stalwart and ANC veteran, Sindiso Mfenyana, are among the more than 7 000 graduands who will be awarded their qualifications at Nelson Mandela University’s autumn graduation this month.

Prof Pepeta, Ms Grootboom and Mr Mfenyana will be awarded honorary doctorates in recognition of their outstanding contribution to society through their professional and affiliated work.

Mandela University’s autumn graduation season kicks off at the George Campus on Thursday, 07 April 2022, with three ceremonies taking place at Eden Place over two days. The Gqeberha campuses will follow suit from 20 April 2022 to 05 May 2022, with an additional 23 ceremonies.

All ceremonies will be mask-to-mask after two years of virtual graduation, except for the summer graduation for masters and doctoral graduates in December 2021 that trialled a return to on-site graduation as national COVID-19 regulations were eased.

A total 7 015 graduands are set to cross the stage this season, inclusive of 188 masters and 52 doctoral degrees.

Prof Pepeta will be posthumously awarded a Doctor of  Health Sciences (honoris causa) for his contributions as a paediatric cardiologist, medical researcher, academic and activist, and for being a pioneer of the medical industry in South Africa, particularly in child health care.

Born in Bizana, Eastern Cape, he matriculated from Bizana Village High School in 1991 and, the following year, enrolled for the MBChB in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the then University of Transkei (now Walter Sisulu University), graduated in 1997 and completed his internship at Mthatha General Hospital in 1998.

After qualifying as a paediatrician in 2003, he had a stint as Head of Paediatrics at Frontier Hospital, in Komani. From mid-2004 to the end of 2008, he served as a Specialist Paediatrician, full-time lecturer and Fellow, sub-specialising in Paediatric Cardiology at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg – through its affiliated academic institution, the University of the Witwatersrand.

He obtained the Certificate in Cardiology (SA) through the College of Paediatricians of South Africa in 2008.

Returning to the Eastern Cape in 2009, Prof Pepeta was appointed as Principal Specialist and later Head of Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the Port Elizabeth Hospital Complex, where he established the City’s first paediatric cardiology unit at the Dora Nginza Provincial Hospital.

He served there until the end of 2015, while also lecturing in Paediatric Cardiology at the Complex and at Walter Sisulu University. During this time, he introduced non-invasive procedures to cure heart disorders and defects, such as congenital heart disorders faced by children in the Eastern Cape, and mentored and trained many doctors, particularly in the field of paediatrics.

On 01 January 2017, Dr Lungile Pepeta was appointed as the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Mandela University, where he served – while also serving on other medical professional bodies – until his untimely passing on 07 August 2020.

His award will be accepted by his wife, Dr Vuyo Pepeta.

Ms Grootboom will receive a Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) for her invaluable work and contribution to journalism, media and communication, as well as her upliftment of the linguistic heritage of South Africa.

Born in Cacadu (formerly Lady Frere) in the Eastern Cape, Ms Grootboom moved to Gauteng in 1981, where she took up a course in computers at a Johannesburg-based computer academy. Thereafter, she took up a position as a typist at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in 1983, seeing this as an opportunity to move into the media space, albeit with no formal journalism background.

She worked her way up to being appointed as a production assistant and received mentoring from fellow journalists. Her love of storytelling and her passion for the isiXhosa language landed her a position as a current affairs producer. 

A stand-in stint in the newsroom in 1990, reading a news bulletin, impressed the public broadcaster’s management and she subsequently became an isiXhosa news anchor.

With her unique sense of humour and her inimitable knack for the isiXhosa language, Ms Grootboom represents many things that Nelson Mandela University stands for, including the value of healing society from its brutal wounds, while preserving the intellectual heritage of isiXhosa for families across the nation.

Her public service in South African society to translate stories and capture the mood while teaching younger generations of the content and knowledge preserved in language, makes her one of the few news anchors and storytellers who deserve the opportunity to be honoured by “ukuthweswa isidanga” (graduation) for the excellent work done in service to society for more than three decades.

A Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) will also be awarded to Mr Mfenyana for his life-long struggle for South Africa’s liberation, his vocality on anti-corruption, patronage and his firm belief in constitutional democracy.

Born in Bolotwa, Eastern Cape, in 1940, Mr Mfenyana moved to East London at a tender age and began his primary school education. He passed his primary education with flying colours and was sent to St John’s College in Mthatha, where he excelled and was the only matriculant at the school to obtain a first class pass with exemption.

During his high school career, his passion for politics began and he regularly attended ANC Youth League (ANCYL) meetings. In matric, he was elected as ANCYL Secretary at St John’s. In 1957, he enrolled for a BSc at Fort Hare University on a scholarship from the Mthatha Bunga (council of tribal chiefs).

He left his Noupoort home and headed for Johannesburg in December 1960 to join the armed struggle. During his time in Johannesburg, Sindiso learned about the workings and political motivations of the ANC. He also contributed to the struggle by helping to organise the All-in Africa Conference in 1961, where Nelson Mandela was the keynote speaker.

The real reason for being in Johannesburg, however, was to prepare him for exile. On 05 January 1962,  Sindiso and his cohort left for military training in the Soviet Union. After his training, he was selected to further his MSc Economic Studies at Kiev Economics Institute in the USSR (now Ukraine). It was during this time that he met his wife, Rita, a graduate in Aeronautical Engineering.

In March 1994, just before South Africa’s first democratic elections, Mr Mfenyana was appointed Under Secretary to the National Assembly and moved to Cape Town. In June 1997, he was the first Black person to ever be appointed Full Secretary to Parliament in South Africa.

On leaving Parliament, he served as the South African Ambassador in Tanzania from 2004 until his retirement in 2010, after which he became the member of the ANC Integrity Commission. 

Mandela University is excited to be able to host this flagship event physically and congratulates all staff and students on their outstanding achievements.