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Two Zimbabweans among four winners of 2022 Mandela social impact awards

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By Staff Reporter & Agencies


THE Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF) has announced four of its award winners for its social impact award the Äänit Prize.

The four winners – all of them young leaders – are focused on society’s most marginalised and drawn from three countries – South Africa, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

Each will receive USD$19,500 for their ventures.

Atherton Mutombwera, Jessica Ronaasen, Koaile Monaheng and Shantel Marekera are winners of the 2022 Äänit Prize, The Mandela Rhodes Foundation’s award for social impact.

Elliot Gerson, executive vice president of the Aspen Institute and chairperson of the panel of expert judges, provided a citation on behalf of the judges.

According to the judges’ citation, “In this group of extraordinary finalists, we were impressed by a sharp focus on reaching marginalised and vulnerable populations. [This is] namely children in their early years, rural populations being left behind without energy access and people without ready access to high quality and life-saving medical care.”

Gerson adds, “Although the ventures are very different in their theories of change, stage of development and capitalisation, they share approaches that are deeply imaginative and animated by a tenacious and resourceful spirit.”

“Across different geographies and contexts, we were deeply moved by a shared passion to advance the interests of those most in need,” says Gerson.

The MRF’s communications and alumni manager Abigail McDougall adds, “Mutombwera, Ronaasen, Monaheng and Marekera demonstrate leadership by working actively to resist inequitable development on the African continent and by shifting the narrative of inclusion through their ventures.”

McDougall says, “The MRF celebrates your leadership, the tangible impact you are making and your tenacity. You embody a good kind of stubbornness, a defiance in the face of unfairness that is truly in the spirit of our founding patron Nelson Mandela.”

She also thanked David Cohen, whose Ezrah Charitable Trust funds the prize.

The awards were co-hosted in Cape Town by Ayanda Radebe, communications officer at the MRF and Sina Moyane, Trek4Mandela project manager at the Imbumba Foundation and streamed to a live audience in several countries.

The hosts made a surprise announcement that unsuccessful finalists would each receive USD$1 000 to offset the considerable effort it takes to enter the competition and acknowledge the quality of the candidates.

Zimbabwe Winners

Atherton Mutombwera, founder and CEO of Hutano Diagnostics

Atherton Mutombwera, founder and CEO of Hutano Diagnostics

Hutano aims to save lives by developing better, faster testing technology for diagnosing dangerous diseases in resource-poor contexts.

“I first read about the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship when I was a first-year student at the then NMMU computer labs. Every year after that, I would look out for the advert and get inspired. As an alumnus, I am more inspired and grateful for the foundation’s support,” says Mutombwera.

Mutombwera adds, “The funds will be used to increase our team with a principal scientist to support our rockstar chief scientific officer, allowing us to reach our milestones. The Äänit Prize helps us bring our tests closer to the community.”

Mutombwera is a 2014 Mandela Rhodes Scholar from Zimbabwe.

Shantel Marekera, founder of the Little Dreamers Foundation

The foundation runs an affordable preschool in the under-serviced neighbourhoods of Budidiro Cabs, Zimbabwe.

“It all feels so surreal,” Marekera adds. “I am filled with gratitude to my Rhodes community, my team at Little Dreamers Foundation, the Budiriro Cabs and Glenview community and all the organisations that have partnered with Little Dreamers. I didn’t do this alone.”

Marekera concludes that Little Dreamers would use the funds to purchase land to build a junior school, which will afford Little Dreamers students access to affordable and high-standard educational resources from preschool all the way to primary school.

Marekera is a 2019 Rhodes Scholar from Zimbabwe.

Further details about the winners and their projects is available here.