2 South African Grads Win Rhodes

African scholar, journalist bring Harvard's Rhodes total to nine

Two South African Harvard alums, Itumeleng “Tumi” A. Makgetla ’05 and Yusuf W. Randera-Rees ’05, have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships to continue their studies at Oxford University.

At Oxford, Makgetla and Randera-Rees will join the seven Americans from Harvard who won Rhodes Scholarships last November.

While he was at Harvard, Randera-Rees co-founded the Unite Against AIDS movement, which organized a summit on AIDS in Africa that attracted more than 2,500 students and young professionals, he wrote in an e-mail.

A nationally ranked tennis player at his South African high school, Randera-Rees also played on the Harvard men’s tennis team, where his teammates named him the Alden J. Bryan Most Improved Player.

Randera-Rees, who concentrated in economics in college, plans to pursue degrees in African studies and financial economics at Oxford.

“I don’t just want to be a businessman,” Randera-Rees said, explaining his interest in African economic development. “I want to be a financial expert and African scholar who uses business as a tool to drive African development.”

Randera-Rees has worked as an African analyst at Credit Suisse, and he is planning to start a small financial-services company in Johannesburg, called Loxodonta Capital, with classmate Kwame L. Osseo-Asare ’05.

Randera-Rees has also worked closely with classmates and investment bankers to co-found the Summit of Africa’s Young Business Leaders, which brought students from African universities to the U.S. to discuss African economic development and leadership.

Tennis coach Dave Fish, whom Randera-Rees regarded as another inspiration and mentor, praised Randera-Rees’ unflagging energy.

“He had a determination to practice without any reinforcement or attention,” said Fish. “He’s sort of like the Energizer bunny, I’m very fond of him.”

Makgetla, the other South African Rhodes Scholar and former social studies concentrator, is currently a reporter at the Mail & Guardian, one of South Africa’s top national papers.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Makgetla said of her work in journalism. “You ask questions not just because it’s your job, but because you learn more.”

Some of her experiences have been colorful, but others have been difficult.

Makgetla said she had once been asked to interview the family of a 10-year-old girl who had been raped and murdered.

“I remember being scared at the prospect,” she said. “I didn’t want to invade their space.”

Makgetla is also a star in the world of martial arts. A former member of South Africa’s national team for Chinese martial arts, she placed gold at a Tai Chi competition in Taiwan.

In college, Makgetla was the co-manager of the Harvard Wushu Club. She was also a member of the Harvard Gumboots Dance Troupe and the Harvard African Students Association.

Makgetla looks forward to studying at Oxford, where she will study politics. She said she hopes her education will help her “develop an analytic lens to understand my society and introduce developments in South Africa.”

Makgetla looks forward to working in policy-related research or law with an eye towards trade policy, she said.

Eaton Professor of the Science of Government Robert H. Bates, who teaches classes on the political economy of Africa, offered high praise for his former student.

“She is smarter than hell,” said Bates, who is also a professor of African and African American studies. “She’s got a wide-ranging curiosity and sense of the world about her.”

—Staff writer Angela A. Sun can be reached at asun@fas.harvard.edu.