Rhodes University alumni make this year’s prestigious Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans list

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Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans
Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans

Several alumni from Rhodes University are among this year’s Mail & Guardian top 200 Young South Africans. Every year, the Mail & Guardian celebrates the most interesting and talented young South Africans under 35, who have shown themselves to be leaders.

The list from Rhodes University includes Philiswa Lila, Alistair Conn, Thandeka Kathi, and Samantha Nicholson.


Philiswa Lila – Arts & Entertainment

Lila joined Rhodes University in 2016  and won the L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award in her second year of Masters in Art History. She is currently in residence at the University of Johannesburg, in partnership with Cambridge University.

She said, “I evoke personal experiences that materialise in the sensory and the imagination of objects, and narratives that generate relational connections.”


Alistair Conn – Civil Society

Conn joined Rhodes University in 2010 to complete his Bachelor of Social Science degree. In October 2019, Conn joined SA Harvest. The team has expanded from three to 35, with warehouses in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Conn began as regional manager for the Western Cape, and is now chief innovation officer overseeing branding and media. SA Harvest has rescued 6.5-million kilograms of food and delivered 21 million meals to communities in need, with plans to expand further.

He said, “If you succeed, every mistake will become legendary; if you fail or stop too soon, your mistakes are mere mistakes.”


Thandeka Kathi – Law & Justice

Kathi joined Rhodes University in 2007 to complete her Bachelor of Laws. She is currently an attorney working with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies. She primarily works with activists, community forums and other structures in mining-affected communities, championing their civil and political rights and their right to a safe and healthy environment.

She said, “If I do my part, and persons X, Y, and Z do their part, then things will start to change.”


Samantha Nicholson - Environment

Samantha joined Rhodes University in 2009, where she obtained her Master of Science degree. She currently heads up the African Lion Database, a conservation project that collects and analyses key data on the species to inform conservation-related decision-making. By creating a repository of reliable information, the database aims to bolster the capacity of governments and organisations to assess the impacts of their interventions.

She said, “Never say no to something that you can learn from and that could provide opportunities to grow in your career."



Rhodes University congratulates our high-achieving alumni who made the Top 200 list this year. They are the true embodiment of our motto, ‘Where leaders learn’.


For more information on the Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans, go to: https://200youngsouthafricans.co.za/