Graduate gets double joy

2019-05-01 06:00
The management of the University of the Free State with Dr Tshepo Motsepe, the first Lady of South Africa. Photo: Supplied

The management of the University of the Free State with Dr Tshepo Motsepe, the first Lady of South Africa. Photo: Supplied

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Thapelo Chacha could be the proudest of many graduates as he got double joy on his graduation at this year’s autumn graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State (UFS) from 8 to 12 April.

Chacha’s double joy was to receive his honours degree in Spatial Planning and having his inspirator, Dr Tshepo Motsepe – the first lady of South Africa – present at the occasion.

Chacha was happy that Motsepe came to witness him walking the red carpet to receive his qualification.

Motsepe helped Chacha to realise his dream.

“Mme Tshepo sponsored me from her own pocket until I became part of the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust (Cret),” Chacha explained. He originates from Marquard in the Eastern Free State.

“I am a granny’s boy – who was a domestic worker – and can speak fluent Afrikaans. I am fearless and I understand my calling for greatness. I stand and advocate for social justice and I am not scared to challenge any form of injustice. I hate people who abuse power and I am no friend of mediocrity. I speak my mind,” Chacha said.

Chacha said he met Motsepe some years ago.

“I met the first lady through Dr Vuyelwa Manzana who was my mother’s doctor at the time – after dropping out of university due to a financial crisis. My case was handed over to the lawyers with a debt that accrued over three years. I knocked at every door you can think of – with no luck.

“One day I got a call from a woman who introduced herself as Mme Tshepo, asking me to go to university. I laughed, because I knew my debt was too big to allow me to study again.

“She insisted, and when I arrived at the UFS, my outstanding debt had been paid and I was able to register. The same Mme Tshepo called to assure me that she will pay for my tuition, meals, books and accommodation.

“I did not even know that she was the wife of Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, who would later become the deputy president and now the president of the country,” said Chacha.

Chacha said Motsepe personally texted and called about his graduation information, informing him she would attend.

“You can imagine the excitement and the shock,” Chacha said.

It was the first time that Chacha introduced Motsepe to his family.

Prof. Francis Petersen, UFS rector and vice-chancellor, said during a meeting with Motsepe and Chacha: “Access to university is crucial. However, we would also like our students to exit with a qualification.

“This is how a bursary like this one of Cret helps. We would like to exit students that contribute to the economy.”

Chacha is now doing his master’s in Urban and Regional Planning.

“I am looking forward to registering with the South African Council for Planners as a professional town planner at the end of my master’s degree. I see myself joining a town planning division anywhere in South Africa, dedicated to changing the living conditions of ordinary citizens.

“Spatial planning speaks to the heart of land use and ensures that the land is used and occupied in a manner that is beneficial to everyone who needs it,” Chacha said.

Chacha believes town planning has been largely influenced by politics, thus forcing town planners to move away from serving the needs of the ordinary citizen.

“This is why my dissertation is about township infrastructure and the contribution it makes towards township economy,” he said.

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