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Alumni in the spotlight April 2024

- Alumni Relations Office

Catch up on Witsie awards, appointments and newsmakers from the past month.


The Sabin Vaccine Institute presented the Albert B Sabin Gold Medal to two physician-researchers Professor Keith Klugman (BSc 1978, BSc Hons 1979, MBBCh 1981, PhD 1981, DTM&H 1985, MMed 1988) and Professor Shabir Madhi (MBBCh 1990, MMed 1999, PhD 2004). The Gold Medal is Sabin’s highest scientific honour. It has been given annually for more than three decades to a distinguished member of the global health community who has made exceptional contributions to vaccinology or a complementary field. 

South African editor and journalist Aggrey Klaaste (BA 1962) received The Order of Ikhamanga in Gold posthumously from the Presidency. Klaaste has been honoured “for his exceptional contribution to quality journalism and as a reporter exposing the cruelties of apartheid and encouraging unity among the people of different political persuasions to fight for liberation.”

Sally HuttonSally Hutton (LLM 1999), managing partner at Webber Wentzel, was awarded the IFLR Women Dealmakers Hall of Fame Award at the 2024 IFLR Africa Awards. She received recognition for her significant impact on the legal landscape and the work she has done to actively promote women in law. 

Freediving athlete, Thalia Sklair (BA PA 2014), was awarded first place in the static apnea discipline at the first official AIDA (International Association for the Development of Apnea) South African National Championships in Cape Town. 

Independent investigative journalist and media researcher Patrick Egwu (BA 2021) was awarded one of the six 2024 Bertha Challenge Fellowships. Based in Toronto, he covers human rights, social justice, conflict and development. For his fellowship year, he will be working and living in Nigeria investigating climate disinformation and corruption in Nigeria through a 10-part multimedia investigative series connecting the dots between political elites and power and disinformation. Egwu was an Open Society Foundation Fellow at Wits, undertaking a three month-long undercover investigation into the sale of fake COVID-19 test results in South Africa. He was a finalist for the 2022 Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism. He was also a 2023 recipient of Texas A&M University’s Conflict and Development grants to investigate armed conflict in northwest Nigeria and impacts on marginalised communities. 


Justice Kate O’ Regan (LLD honoris causa 2015) was appointed as chair of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation. She is current trustee and will replace Professor Njabulo Ndebele. “She embodies the key qualities that speak to Madiba’s values and spirit.” 

The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) announced the appointment of Naseema Fakir (LLB 2004) as its new executive director, from 1 May 2024, ending her stint acting in the position, following the resignation of Nicole Fritz (LLB 1999) late last year.

MTN appointed Mike Silber (LLB 1998, BProc 1993) as its Group Executive Regulatory from 1 April 2024. He joins the company from Liquid Intelligent Technologies, where he was the group chief regulatory officer for five years. 

Bryan O' DonovanCell C appointed Bryan O'Donovan (BEconSc 2003, BSc Hons 2004) as chief data and analytics officer, effective May 2024. He will be responsible for spearheading the management of the organisation's data and analytics assets, championing data-driven decision-making processes and leveraging data assets to propel growth and optimisation initiatives. 

During the UNHRC’s 55th session, Dr Michelle Small (BA 2002, BA Hons 2003, PDipEd 2008, PhD 2018), based in the Department of International Relations at Wits, was appointed as a member representing African States of the United Nations Working Group on “The use of mercenaries” as a means of violating human rights. 

Telkom appointed Herman Singh (BSc Eng 1981, GDE 1985, MBA 1990) as independent non-executive director of its technology committee. In a regulatory filing with the JSE, the company said the committee has been established to assist the board with “oversight of technology and innovation strategies, plans, and operations related to information security, cybersecurity, data private and third-party technology strategies”. 

Butsi Tladi (BCom 1996, MBA 2016), executive: consulting at Alexander Forbes, has been appointed as the President of the World Federation of Insurance Intermediaries. 

Dr Shakira ChoonaraDr Shakira Choonara (BHS 2010, BA Hons 2012, MA 2013, PhD 2017) was appointed as Thematic Lead for the Action Coalition on Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at the UN women headquarters. In her capacity as Thematic Lead, she will be spearheading efforts to support over 300 partners worldwide in advancing commitments towards women’s health and gender equality, particularly focusing on marginalized populations such as LGBTQI+ communities. 

Ockert Janse van Rensburg (HDipCoLaw 2005) has been appointed as CEO of Motus Corporation Proprietary Limited with effect from 1 November 2024. Prior to joining Motus, he was CFO of Foodcorp Holdings Limited and was a partner at PWC.

Mapaseka Phala (BA 2012, BA Hons 2013, LLB 2015), Mmotlana Kgoadi (LLB 2011, PDipLaw 2018), Paula-Ann Novotny (BCom 2014, LLB 2016) and Ziyanda Sibeko (LLM 2023) were appointed as partners at Webber Wentzel.


Palaeoentomologist Sandiso Mnguni (PhD 2022) and his team have recorded a fossil that explores the evolutionary history of beetles, dating back ninety million years. Findings by Genus Postdoctoral fellow Mnguni not only describe a new species of rove beetle, Paleothius mckayi, but broaden our understanding of the history of beetles, dating back to the Cretaceous age – when dinosaurs thrived. The findings were published in the Journal of Entomological Science. The fossil was originally discovered in Botswana’s Orapa Diamond Mine in the 1980s. 

Ola LeepileOla Leepile (BCom 2003), CEO of investment solutions provider Novare chatted to the Financial Mail.

Whistleblower Athol Williams (BSc Eng 1992) wants to see South Africa move from the era of the bully to the era of the brave. He chatted to Jeremy Maggs about how citizens could make this possible. 

Mia Swart (BA 2014) visiting professor at Wits Law School specialising in human rights, international relations and international law, wrote about our ability to be cruel and compartmentalise it. 

Dr Nomathemba Chandiwana (MPH 2007, MBBCh 2009) an HIV and obesity specialist at Ezincha, chatted to John Perlman on World Obesity Day

Multidisciplinary artist Senzeni Marasela (BAFA 1999) held her first European gallery solo exhibition I write (stitch) what I like, which investigates questions of memory, place and loss. As one of the generation of post-apartheid South African artists, Marasela investigates the fate of women separated from their families during the apartheid era, as well as analysing post-apartheid Black female identities.

Molemo  MoiloaMolemo Linda Moiloa (BA FA 2010) and Nare Mokgotho (BA FA 2010) from the art collective, MADEYOULOOK, are participating in the South African Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia (20 April-24 November 2024). They will be joined Gabrielle Goliath (BA FA 2008, MA FA 2011) who will also be exhibiting at the prestigious biennale, along with William Kentridge (BA 1977, DLitt honoris causa 2004).