Eleven Rhodes University students among GradStar 2019’s Top 100

Rhodes University students succeed in GradStar's Top 100
Rhodes University students succeed in GradStar's Top 100

After receiving thousands of entries from across the country and putting the entrants through a rigorous judging process, South Africa’s Top 10 university students have been unearthed from across the country, chosen from the Top 100 identified by the GradStar programme, now in its fourth year.

The GradStar programme is made possible by headline sponsor Absa and employer sponsors Accenture, DHL, Epiroc and Fasken, and is set up by BlackBark Productions (creators of the Rising Star Awards). It is a uniquely-developed programme that focuses on quality connections, and complements existing employer programmes. It is designed to provide previously unrecognised students with opportunities for employment and allow them to contribute positively to South Africa’s future growth.

These university students show the best potential as the country’s future leaders, and their assessment throughout the process is conducted by key assessment providers 3C Leadership, employers and universities.

The final stage of judging, deciding on the ‘10 of the Finest’, took place on 19 September 2019 after the Top 100 were guided through employer workshops.


TEN OF THE FINEST (in alphabetical order by university)




Yeshveer Manawar

Bachelor of Engineering Technology (Chemical Engineering)

Durban University of Technology

Ntsako Mogatosi

Master of Arts (Research Psychology)

Nelson Mandela University

Lesego Sole

Bachelor of Commerce (Law)

North-West University

Chevon Mia

Bachelor of Arts Hons (Human Kinetics and Ergonomics)

Rhodes University

Travis Defty

Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics)

Stellenbosch University

Kaila Fourie

Bachelor of Business Science (Actuarial Science)

University of Cape Town

Ruey Shiuan Chang

Bachelor of Finance Hons (Financial Management)

University of Johannesburg

Hee-Rak Lee

Bachelor of Laws

University of Pretoria

Lelethu Nogwavu

Bachelor of Laws

University of the Western Cape

Phenyo Mabokela

Bachelor of Commerce (Management Accounting and Finance)

University of the Witwatersrand


All Top 100 Students were recognised at a Gala Dinner at Indaba Hotel, featuring Dr Thokozile - Lewanika Mpupuni, Absa's Group Head of Leadership, Learning and Talent, and Akhram Mohamed, Chief Technology Officer – South Africa Device Business, Huawei. Although the GradStar programme's patron, Dr David Molapo, could not attend, he sent a video message congratulating and inspiring the Top 100 students. “This is a worthy programme,” he said. “It is designed to uplift the student youth and provide an aspirational platform to assist them in achieving their potential.”

Tension was high before the '10 of the Finest' were announced at the end of the evening and presented with their trophies by the employers who had assessed them earlier that day.

Dr Mpupuni offered the following words of wisdom for the students: “It is now time to bring even more of your talents and possibilities to life. It is time to be even more brave, more passionate and more ready! Being brave requires you to set even bigger goals for yourself, and the people you will work with. Being passionate is having purpose and meaning as the fuel that drives you. Going that extra mile because you know it can be done, and has to be done, because it matters. Being ready is your commitment to lifelong learning in order to continually make a difference through your talents and abundant possibilities."

The GradStar competition process is designed to emulate the process that top employers use to find their future talent, and uses behavioural testing and personal interviewing amongst other methods as measurement tools. It allows students to familiarise themselves with the formal graduate programme application process, and enables them to identify their own strengths and weaknesses along the way.

“I am particularly proud of the GradStar programme for the way it develops our very young talent in South Africa,” says Laura Barker, MD of BlackBark Productions. “The Top 100 will each be connected with a business mentor, who has been recognised through our Rising Star Programme, to further ready them for the workplace. This is a unique and valuable opportunity for each graduate to draw upon the expertise and knowledge of those who have gone before them, and start their careers on a solid foundation.”


Students from Rhodes University who made the Top 100 list:

Amanda Dlamini

Rhodes University

Antonette Motloung

Rhodes University

Brett Mason

Rhodes University

Chevon Mia

Rhodes University

Idris Njanje

Rhodes University

Morgan Lee

Rhodes University

Nqobile Nzimande

Rhodes University

Octavia Du Plessis

Rhodes University

Shana Ellappa

Rhodes University

Sinethemba Gama

Rhodes University

Tarusha Chetty

Rhodes University