Graduate brings First Lady to Kovsies

From the left are Prof. Prakash Naidoo, Vice-Rector: Operations; Prof. Maléne Campbell; Chacha; Dr Tshepo Motsepe, First Lady of South Africa; Prof. Francis Petersen; Prof Puleng Lenka-Bula; Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement and Prof. Danie Vermeulen, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. PHOTO: SONIA SMALL

After dropping out of university due to a financial crisis, Thapelo Chacha was handed over to lawyers. He was facing a debt he had accumulated over three years.

“I knocked on every door you can think of, with no luck. One day I got a call from a lady who introduced herself as Mme Tshepo, asking me to go to the university. I laughed, because I knew my debt was too big to allow me to study again. She insisted, and when I arrived at the UFS, my outstanding debt had been paid and I was able to register. The same Mme Tshepo called to assure me that she would pay for my tuition, meals, books, and accommodation,” said Chacha.

Little did he know that Mme Tshepo was Dr Tshepo Motsepe, the wife of Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, I did not even know that she was the First Lady of the Country. Mme Tshepo sponsored me from her own pocket until I became part of the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust (CRET).”

“Although I have met the First Lady many times, it would be the first time that I could introduce her to my family, and she took us, my mother and my grandmother, to lunch after the ceremony. I see that as a favour of God upon my life,” added Chacha.

During a meeting with Dr Motsepe and Chacha, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Francis Petersen said: “Access to university is crucial. However, we would also like our students to exit with a qualification. This is how a bursary like this one from CRET helps.”

Chacha, a graduate in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, received his Honours degree in Spatial Planning at the recent April graduation ceremonies of the University of the Free State (UFS), and is now doing his master’s in Urban and Regional Planning. “I am so looking forward to registering with the South African Council for Planners (SACPLAN) as a professional town planner at the end of my master’s degree within a few months.

“I see myself joining a town planning division anywhere in South Africa, dedicated to changing the living conditions of ordinary citizens. The UFS has taught me resilience, hard work, the importance of networking, and the knowledge that you need to be radical when it comes to your future,” Chacha concluded. – Seithati Semenokane