#UPMandelaMonth: UP staff member appointed to Mandela Rhodes Foundation board

Posted on July 17, 2020

The appointment of Future Africa’s Dr Osmond Mlonyeni is a historic first for Madiba’s legacy foundation.

UP alumnus Dr Osmond Mlonyeni has made history as the first Mandela Rhodes Scholarship recipient to be elected to the Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF) Board of Trustees.

The Mandela Rhodes Foundation is one of Nelson Mandela’s three official legacy organisations, and was founded in 2003 in partnership with the Rhodes Trust. Their mission is to build exceptional leadership capacity in Africa. Through the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship as one of their tools, they find, fund and empower young Africans who aspire towards the kind of leadership that the former president embodied.

Dr Mlonyeni, who received his qualifications in Genetics from UP, was officially appointed by the trustees at the annual board meeting held in June 2020. Chair of the Board of Trustees Professor Njabulo S Ndebele said Dr Mlonyeni’s appointment is a historic and delightful moment for the board, and that his accomplishments and deep understanding of the foundation’s values make him an excellent addition.

Dr Mlonyeni is a manager at Future Africa, a pan-African institute based at UP that is focused on transformative interdisciplinary research. He is currently involved with a team led by Professor Bernard Slippers to establish Innovation Africa@UP, a national and pan-African research investment platform, the aim of which is to incubate future-focused, cutting-edge research.

Dr Mlonyeni said he is honoured by his appointment to the MRF board and is looking forward to using his skill set to contribute further to the development of other young people. “This honour is not a function of one’s unique capabilities,” he said. “The MRF has alumni that boast a wide array of exceptional leadership qualities. To be true to this honour, I am duty bound to commit my talents, guided by a value system that espouses ethical and authentic leadership, to contributing towards the MRF’s vision of ‘building exceptional leadership capacity in Africa’.”

His journey with the Mandela Rhodes Foundation began in 2009 when he was awarded the scholarship as an MSc student specialising in Genetics. Dr Mlonyeni described the experience as an enriching one that benefitted him in many ways.

“One of the unique features of the scholarship is that it has a leadership development programme linked to it,” he said. “My hope was that through this programme, the scholarship would provide effective and structured guidance on the varied aspects of leadership.”

Upon completing his year-in-residence, he recalls making the following remarks: “I had the opportunity to learn from and with peers, to constructively interact with a diversity of schools of thought, and to draw from the insight of the MRF family. The MRF is more than just a scholarship. It has been a guardian, mentor, educator, reconciler and a hub for visionaries. It has reinforced the importance of a shared vision, enriched my understanding of dedication, taught me the important role that objective reflection plays, in correction and renewal, and planted a seed for shared responsibility towards humanity.”

An important aspect of the MRF is keeping the legacy of Mandela alive. Dr Mlonyeni got to meet the man himself at the Welcome Event of the MRF class of 2009, held in December 2008. “Without a doubt President Mandela left an indelible mark, and I expressed this on behalf of all MRF scholars during a tribute at the Nelson Mandela Youth Commemoration on 14 December 2013.” In his address, Dr Mlonyeni recalls talking about how Mandela “unleashed unforgettable strokes such as the commanding, straight drive towards freedom, elegant pull towards reconciliation, clear drive towards equality, determined square cut towards justice and clean hook towards humility’.”

- Author DIA

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