On her first day as a Roedean High School pupil five years ago, Kgothatso Molefe was offered a lift by a classmate’s mother.
It was only later, after the friendly woman had dropped Kgothatso and her mother, Mary, off at home, that the then Grade 8 pupil discovered she’d just been driven home by Cyril Ramaphosa’s wife.
Since then, Dr Tshepo Motsepe has become Kgothatso’s benefactor, helping her navigate between the hallowed halls of posh Roedean and her more humble home life as a domestic worker’s daughter.
“I think [Motsepe] was intrigued by my story and we ended up chatting. At that time I did not have a cellphone. She was shocked and on the same day she brought me one at school. Literally from day one she became our best friend,” says Kgothatso, who is now 18 and in matric.
“I call her Mme, because she is like a mother to me. Everything I need, I can simply call her and she is there for me. I remember she used to pay for my bus fees before I moved into the boarding school.
“She does all these things for me, but she expects the best from me too. It’s not pressurising, but I need to do the best I can.”
Her best is something any mother would be proud of. The young woman is currently applying to universities to read for a degree in aeronautical engineering.
Motsepe is a medical doctor who holds a master’s in public health from Harvard. She is also the sister of mining magnate Patrice Motsepe.
Though she had no qualms about Kgothatso discussing their relationship, she declined to speak to City Press herself.
Kgothatso is a beneficiary of the Student Sponsorship Programme, which identifies academically gifted youngsters from less privileged backgrounds and helps place them at top schools in Gauteng, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape.
Roedean, in Parktown, charges close to R200?000 per year for schools fees and boarding.
It was quite a culture shock for the young woman, whose mother lives with her employers in Forest Town. The family is from Soweto and Kgothatso still stays with relatives there on the weekends.
“In the beginning it was tough. Whereas some people saw this scholarship at Roedean as honourable and that I worked hard to get it, others saw me as being poor and hungry. There were times I had to deal with that.
“But luckily, I guess there was another girl, Sibongile, who also came from the Student Sponsorship Programme and we were there for each other. In the beginning there were a lot of tears and I remember loving break time where I could just forget the whole situation. But I think I have adjusted well,” she said.
Her relationship with Motsepe had helped her to adjust, she said.
“My mother is very happy that I have a secure future now.”