Welcome to our conversation. Strange as it may seem (considering this is our first contribution to Thought Leader) you are joining us in the middle of numerous, intriguing debates of which we hope you will soon become part.

But first let me introduce “us”. We are the Community of Mandela Rhodes Scholars. We are an ever expanding group of postgraduate students (and, increasingly, professional people) who have received Mandela Rhodes scholarships and to aspire to promote the principles espoused by the Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF): leadership, education, entrepreneurship and reconciliation.

“So you are yet another alumni organisation?” I hear you ask — implying, of course, that proof is required that we are something more than an “old boys club” (enlightened enough to include women and “non-whites”), especially when Rhodes’ name attached nogal. The most persuasive proof is to follow in our varied, passionate and principled future contributions to this space (which may or may not include engaging with the Rhodes’ legacy/name).

The rest of this introduction, therefore, is more a description of who we are and what we believe in then than an attempt at providing such proof.

We are people from all over Africa (we currently represent nine African countries) with the intellectual and leadership capacity to become its future leaders (in the estimation of the MRF).

We represent every form of diversity possible on the African continent — genders, ethnicities, races, nationalities, professions, interests, beliefs and values — except for the four principals identified above, which represent the backbone of our organisation and of our common commitment. Everything else is up for debate (as, indeed, is the exact meaning of each of those words — leadership, education, entrepreneurship and reconciliation).

As part of our experience as Mandela Rhodes scholars we are brought together a number of times throughout our first year to participate in a leadership programme. While we are offered an array of exciting opportunities during these gatherings, it is our interaction and the discovery and revelling in our differences (most often in the form of remarkable conversations and debates) that is most consistently remarked on as having a profound effect by each generation of scholars.

In 2006 we decided to form an organisation which would serve as the centre of a network of scholars (across the various generations) that would enable us to continue to have these significant debates and translate our common principles, commitment to Africa and dynamic diversity into concrete action. We also recognised that there already existed a range of organisations and individuals who believe in and seek to promote these principles.

Our prime intention and strategy is to facilitate the formation of relationships (between individuals or organisations) to form a community of people seeking to promote the principles and thereby serve a positive change on the African continent. In the language of our Constitution, therefore, we aspire to be “a responsive and engaged network committed to furthering the realisation of the principles of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, by creating effective partnerships with like-minded individuals and organisations, in carrying out strategic projects, and supporting each other in our attempts to make a positive and meaningful impact on the African continent.”

We were listening when our patron Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela recently challenged world leaders to deal with ever-increasing poverty and inequality: “Recognise that the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” We intend to be that generation and offer both action and words.

Tristan Görgens was born on the 19th of September 1983 in Grahamstown, South Africa. He is studying towards his B.SocSc Honours degree in Development Studies at the University of Cape Town as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar.

Görgens has held many senior leadership positions in communities and at university. He has also contributed significantly towards the upliftment of others, especially youth.


Mandela Rhodes Scholars

Mandela Rhodes Scholars

Mandela Rhodes Scholars who feature on this page are all recipients of The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, awarded by The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, and are members...

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