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Unisa awards honorary doctorate to exemplary philanthropist and entrepreneur Collen Tshifhiwa Mashawana

Unisa conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) to consummate philanthropist and entrepreneur Collen Tshifhiwa Mashawana in recognition of his leadership, philanthropy, and business acumen. Mashawana is the epitome of selflessness. He dedicates his wealth and influence to uplifting the less fortunate, exemplifying the transformative power of compassion and social responsibility.


Dr Benni Lekubu, Prof Solomon Magano, Dr Collen Tshifhiwa Mashawana, Prof Puleng LenkaBula and Prof Moloko Sepota

Exemplary life

Presenting his degree, Acting Deputy Executive Dean of the College of Human Sciences Professor Derrick Mashau stated that Mashawana, the founder and Chairman of the Collen Mashawana Foundation, has spearheaded initiatives that have had a profound impact on communities, particularly in the construction of over 300 homes over the past decade without any external or government assistance. "With this intervention," he said, "Mashawana's foundation continues to bring much-needed relief to the elderly, people with disabilities, and child-headed families."

"In addition," said Mashau, "during the challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic, his foundation was at the forefront of providing essential aid through the donation of personal protective equipment and food parcels, especially to the underprivileged and vulnerable sections of society; thus playing a critical role in mitigating the impact of the virus."


Prof Derrick Mashau

Notably, as a demonstration that Mashawana's contribution extends beyond the business community, he was listed among the 100 most reputable Africans and included in the roster of highly prolific Africans of 2020. The Department of Social Development also honoured him with an Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2018, thus underscoring his role as a pivotal figure in the nation's social and economic development spheres.

Mashawana said the honorary doctorate is a recognition that holds immense value to him. He expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Unisa for acknowledging the dedicated individuals working tirelessly to impact society positively. He further stated that the recognition extends to the efforts of Non-Profit Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations that provide for the homeless, safeguard the elderly, protect people with disabilities and combat gender-based violence. "I am a humble representative of their collective work," he added.


Dr Collen Tshifhiwa Mashawana

Mashawana revealed that his mother was a waitress who raised him and his siblings on tips, and this, he said, further deepened his appreciation for those who instilled in him the value of charity, both within his family and extending outward. He acknowledged the importance of all acts of kindness, from small gestures to larger contributions.

Leadership is defined by impact and service, not by age

Mashawana expressed that the recognition acknowledges past achievements and ignites a renewed sense of purpose and responsibility to do even more, further underscoring the significance of being among the youngest recipients of an honorary doctorate. He views the recognition as a reflection of the country's higher education institutions' commitment to empowering and acknowledging young leaders, shaping a brighter future. "It serves as a beacon of encouragement to the youth and society, demonstrating that leadership is defined by impact and service, not by age," he said.  "Nothing is as fulfilling as living a selfless life - a life of purpose and servitude. Everyone can make a difference in someone's life," he added.

Unisa's Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC), Professor Puleng LenkaBula, affirmed that we should stand in solidarity with those forgotten by society. "We should uplift and support them through our talents and resources to ensure that we are at the centre of the solutions they require to thrive. We are inextricably bound to one another, and our money does not make us better than others," said the VC.

Mashawana's philanthropy exemplifies how positive change is possible through dedicated service and a commitment to the betterment of society. Concluding his address, he left the audience with a powerful call to action, urging everyone to embrace their potential to make a difference.


*By Godfrey Madibane, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

**Photography by Shooheima Champion, Multimedia Centre

Publish date: 2024/04/19

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