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Africa’s most powerful


Five alumnae have made the list for Forbes Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women in its March 2020 edition.

Five alumnae have made the list for Forbes Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women in its March 2020 edition, described as “a first-of-its-kind Pan-African compilation of the continent’s leading women from business, politics, media, science, and public life”. Congratulations to Wendy Appelbaum, Judy Dlamini, Glenda Gray, Thuli Madonsela and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Wendy Appelbaum (BA 1982, DSc 2019) respected philanthropist and chairperson of De Morgenzon Wine Estate, shares her mantra: “Go beyond your comfort zone, make a difference and leave a ding in the universe.” She was awarded an honorary doctorate in medicine in December 2019. Apart from her leadership in advancing economic and industrial development and uplifting health and welfare services, her role in support of legal processes has had a significant impact.  

Judy Dlamini, current Wits Chancellor is a woman of many feats. Dr Dlamini left her medical practice to pursue her entrepreneurial aspirations as the founder of Mbekani Group. Dlamini has successfully built businesses in pharmaceuticals, luxury fashion and property management, to name a few. She says her mantra is: “Life is a gift, treasure it. Never give up on yourself and on your dreams.”

Glenda Gray (MBBCh 1986) is one of the acclaimed scientists on the government’s advisory committee on Covid-19 and is working to create a solution. She is internationally known for her research in HIV mother-to-child transmission, serves as the CEO of the South African Medical Research Council and is involved in the South Africa Aids Vaccine Initiative. In honour of Professor Gray’s significant contribution to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, she was awarded the Nelson Mandela Health and Human Rights Award in 2002. A decade later in 2013, she was bestowed the Order of Mapungubwe. She has brought treatment to many women and children who were HIV infected and is dedicated to finding an HIV vaccine. In 2017, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world by Time magazine. She tells Forbes Africa Magazine: “The citizens of this country inspire me. I salute their resilience and their hope for a better future.”

The much-admired Wits alumna and South Africa’s former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela (LLB 1991, LLD honoris causa 2017) tells the magazine that being a powerful woman in 2020 means “to be at peace with yourself and the world while enjoying the ability to collaborate with others to influence change". Advocate Madonsela remains a moral voice for South Africa through her broad influence on social media. She has settled at the Stellenbosch University.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was honoured with an honorary doctorate by Wits in 2019 in recognition of her commitment to women’s empowerment nationally and globally, social justice, education and service. As the minister of minerals and energy, she was the driving force behind the Mining Charter. In 2008, Mlambo-Ngcuka established the Umlambo Foundation, a non-profit organisation that built a national network of academic, resource, and psychosocial support for principals leading rural and township schools. She is currently an executive director of UN Women and is responsible for protecting and promoting the rights of four billion women around the world. She tells the magazine her mantra is: “Do not sweat the small stuff. Keep your eyes on the ball. Avoid being distracted from the main goal.”

Other notable South African women who made the list include Bonang Matheba, Caster Semenya, Nkosaza Dlamini-Zuma, Precious Motsepe, Irene Charnley and Magda Wierzycha. 

Read more here.