A Chat with SA Top 100 Student, Bwanika Lawrence Lwanga

Madibaz News Student Newspaper Nelson Mandela University Port Elizabeth

Popularly known as SA’s Top 100, the DHL GradStar Awards is a programme that annually recognises the top 100 university students across all varsities in South Africa based on academics, leadership qualities and readiness for the workplace.

This year, two students from Nelson Mandela University, Bwanika Lawrence Lwanga and Thandokazi Magopheni, made it to the Top 100 list and MadibazNews was more than excited to sit and have a chat with them.

In everything I have ever applied for, the greatest asset I have had is myself. So, I advise everyone who aspires to be part of such lists like the GradStar Top 100 to be as genuine as they can be. They are looking for you not a replica of someone else who already exists…

… explains Bwanika Lawrence Lwanga when speaking on what students aiming for a Top 100 spot need to do. Lawrence is a third year LLB student who grew up in Komani, and went to Queens College Boys High School in Queenstown, EC. He’s also a black consciousness and Pan-Africanist so we decided to speak to him about his reason behind choosing his degree, his extracurricular activities and overcoming challenges. He’s pretty hilarious and super smart guys! Enjoy!!

Hey Lawrence, tell us about yourself – like your name and what your friends call you.

Hey Emi! Well I have three names; my full name is Lawrence Mkhululi Bwanika. I’m an ethnic mix between a Ugandan father and a Xhosa mother and I guess everyone wanted a shot at naming me. I used to use Lawrence as my name because that’s what my parents called me and stuff. However, I believe that your name needs to have a meaning and I couldn’t derive any meaning from Lawrence, so I started using Bwanika, which means with time comes wisdom or to grow is to know. It’s something I really identify with at the moment because of all the pressure to be and know everything that society puts on you.

The name Bwanika really keeps me grounded to move my own race at my own pace. My friends call me Lays (like the chips, but no relation to the chips). It’s short for Lawrence. Then others call me Chimurenga, which is a name I got when I was housecomm at Xanadu Residence.

Nelson Mandela University MadibazNews
Bwanika Lawrence Lwanga at the 2018 Annual Steve Biko Lecture held at Nelson Mandela University

Alright then, Bwanika it is. So why did you decide to study law?

I chose Law because it is a strong undergraduate qualification to have. That and I got lied to by Suits and The Fixer 🙄. I think an LLB opens many doors and develops a person in many aspects such as critical thinking and writing on a domestic and international front.

I’m drawn to this field because I would like to become an inclusive policymaker. I believe in the inclusivity of Africa. I’d like to use my innovative thinking to be a helping hand in mitigating the causes of global inequality and creating a global community that has frameworks that support lasting solutions and promote working relations that are mutually beneficial to all.

(Side note, about his response to this next question: All I can say is my jaw was agape learning about all he does – I was super amazed that he does all these and as a full-time student.)

And what extracurricular activities are you involved in?

Yho, uhm I do a lot of weird things. At the university I’m part of the Black students Stokvel – a society geared towards creating a more socially responsive Nelson Mandela University environment through political dialogues, events, and engagements with university stakeholders especially for black students, ground staff and academics who have historically been at the receiving end of unfair treatment by institutions.

I’m also a debating coach at the Kingsridge school for girls, I think that’s my favourite thing to do. We are first in the province at junior level and we excel nationally at senior level. Those young people really inspire me and give me a lot of reason to work hard and be an example.

I’m also involved with the Boxer super stores marketing team at their head office. I work with them at their annual boxer youth leadership camp that selects 45 young people from South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho to go to Durban for a week for leadership training – It’s a lot of fun to meet and talk to some remarkably smart young people.

I’m an entrepreneur and am busy working towards launching one of my projects called the Laymxn’s Memoir. I am an Allan Gray Orbis foundation candidate fellow, which has really exposed me to a lot of cool entrepreneurs and given me a lot of opportunities to spread my wings and grow as a young person.

I’m part of the delegation that’s heading to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia next year for the International Youth Leadership Conference which is really cool I guess!

That’s really really really impressive Lawrence! And what do you do for fun?

For fun, I run or hang out with my friends, I live a pretty interesting life and generally a lot of the fun stuff is involved in the work I do and the people I meet when doing my work. Also, bruh I think naps don’t get the recognition they deserve so yah for fun I sleep. Then for a little risk and adventure I sleep when I am supposed to be studying before a test.

Nelson Mandela University MadibazNews
Bwanika Lawrence Lwanga speaking at the 2018 Annual Steve Biko Lecture held at Nelson Mandela University

😂 Bruh, you don’t have to say that twice 😂😂😂😂. Okay, so we know you’re a black consciousness and pan Africanist proponent, can you elaborate on the causes dear to you?

I come from a long line of activists in my family and this has influenced a lot of the work I do and the ideology I carry. Succinctly, what matters most to me is the healing of Africa and the repatriation of indigenous land and life. I believe in movements that aspire to make this manifest and so you will find me all over platforms that speak against racism in all forms, patriarchy in all forms and all forms of inter-sectional manifestations of oppression.

(Side note, about his response to this next question: Powerful!)

Yup! Seeing you in those platforms we have indeed!! With all of these on your plate, what situations have been the most challenging thus far and how have you overcome them?

Uhm, well I’ve faced a lot of challenges in life in general, but I believe many of them have taught me lessons that I’m grateful for. The other challenges have been because of my position as a black person in spaces that have no interest in my well-being.

I struggled to take a positive posture towards my schoolwork for a long time especially from high school into my university career. I used to say I’m street smart until my mentor told me that to be street smart means you’re smart enough to know that grades are important. That conversation did a lot to shape my work ethic and diligence towards my work.

I struggled a lot with the effects of the university space, so before I got on Allan Gray, I really struggled financially. And that’s really a can of worms that affects every other aspect of your life. I’ve been poor for the majority of my life. It’s just that my parents shielded a lot of it from my siblings and me. I don’t come from an affluent family and with only one of my parents employed, I struggled to get by with regards to access to textbooks and food. I couldn’t experience “the big world” when I got to university because many of the things required money I didn’t have.

Going into the fees must fall protests and for a very long time after, I did struggle with a lot of depression and post-protest trauma from the violence that was senselessly metered out against students who just wanted a better life.

To be honest dealing with these things is a mission you know. There’s no happy ending sometimes and a lot of our healing takes a realisation that we need to stand together as a people and we need to first deal with our problems (especially black men), on a personal level. Our healing from traumas requires deep work that oftentimes we don’t have the time to do because of the incessant pressure from society and academic commitments.

I am a lucky soul! I survived and now have people who take care of my finances. It’s a big contributor to the depression of many students. I use the luck I have to improve the lives of as many people as I can:

Alongside a few friends I established the Xan-drive Feeding and Wellness Scheme at Xanadu Residence that helps students get access to food and psychological assistance at residence level.

Bwanika Lawrence Lwanga speaking at the Archives Center during the Africa Week Dialogue earlier in 2018

I work a lot with high schools in order to assist students from backgrounds that are underprivileged because of colonialism and apartheid. We work hard to make sure young people especially young women are prepared for university in advance.

We try to source funding and use university students who are on scholarships to mentor and give information as to align the students from a young age to be in a position to finance themselves through university as well as develop a deep sense of self in order to mitigate the initial shock that comes with the violence of University and later, the working world.

I believe many of our problems are structurally engineered through institutions. So oftentimes, you’ll find me running around advocating for better policies.

I overcome a lot of adversity by digging deep and fighting right back hey! I fail a lot more than I succeed. Nobody documents the bad times.

I have an amazing partner and she helps me get through a lot. I have a solid group of friends who keep me inspired. I have the best mentors on earth who help me navigate a lot of the issues I face.

Lastly, I think I try and make sure nobody else goes through the same issues I face. If I have the ability to change something for the better, I take time to do that.

Thank you so much for that. My last question is what advice would you give the Mandela Uni student reading this interview and wanting to become a “Top 100 student” just like you?

Uhm, I think with regards to applying for things such as GradStar I can only give the same advice that was given to me by someone who made it before me which is pretense will break under the pressure when you are not yourself in high-pressure situations. In everything I have ever applied for, the greatest asset I have had is myself. So, I advise everyone who aspires to be part of such lists like the GradStar top 100 to be as genuine as they can be, they are looking for you, not a replica of someone else who already exists.

Very much appreciated Bwanika! Thanks a lot for doing the interview.

It was an absolute pleasure, thank you so much. Keep well and take care.


Connect with Bwanika on Linkedin.

If I Am to Have a Daughter: A Women’s Month Tribute

If I am to have a daughter,
I pray she doesn’t inherit the chains of this world.
I mean I pray she doesn’t inherit the claims of this world.
She doesn’t have to hide behind men’s clothes
To walk down the road
‘Cause then she’d just be another black man
Walking down the road and she’ll know,
She’ll know she might not make it back –
But I guess that’s better than being a black woman walking down the road isn’t it-safe
Has become a privilege even amongst ourselves.

If I am to have a daughter,
I pray she doesn’t inherit the chains of this world.
She doesn’t inherit the claims of this world
‘Cause that’s all man has ever done.
Claimed all that was not his
And chained for all to see.

Image by: Pryncess’s Mind and Emotions


As the year draws to a close, so do our eyelids. It has been a long year and as we think of the exams that stretch ahead, we cannot help but take an even deeper breath. But do not fret, here are a few tips on how to make the most of the little time we have left.

1. Keep track of all your deadlines:

There is nothing worse than pressing on and finishing an assignment or studying for an exam, only to find out it is not the one that is due. Make sure you have the correct dates and times in order to ensure you work efficiently and effectively.

2. Do the work:

While this seems pretty obvious, the student brain at times confounds common rationality. We will be conscious of the looming deadline or exam, but somehow file the urgency to complete the task somewhere in the back of our minds; only to discover it at a later point. It’s harder than it sounds, but just sit down and do the work (You can celebrate with some gummy bears afterwards!).

3. Make every minute count:

Once at the table with a book or laptop open, hours can be wasted doodling or surfing the web. If you find that you’re easily distracted there is a technique that you can use called the Pomodoro Technique.

Firstly, decide whether you want to work in 30 or 45 minute intervals and set a timer for that period. Once the timer has been set, you can begin working. You cannot abandon the task and you must keep working until the timer hits zero. If there is in fact a distraction, note it on the corner of the page and continue working. After the timer has finished you are free to take a 15 to 30 minute break.

Working in intervals will greatly increase your efficiency as you will start to realise how much can be done in 30 or 45 minutes – and how much focus a set time limit lends you.

The Mental Toll of University

Studies show that children today report more anxiety than child psychiatric patients in the 1950s. Everyone has heard that statement, but for us university students it’s almost a reality.

It is no secret that anxiety and depression are things that almost everyone goes through nowadays – the only problem is that most students think it’s normal and they just carry on with their lives. The question is, how do you know that you really do suffer from anxiety or depression?

Here’s how:

Let’s look at depression first –

Depression is considered to be the most common mental illnesses, defined as an illness that leaves you feeling alone, helpless and even completely detached from the world. It can interfere with everything in your life, making even the most basic daily task difficult to do. Symptoms themselves include, but are not limited to, changes in sleeping and eating habits, overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness, seeing life as pointless and because of that having difficulty paying attention or working. Having some of these symptoms does not always mean that you’re depressed. Life is complicated and we all face some of these issues from time to time. However, if you experience these symptoms regularly – or several symptoms together, it might be time for you to ask for help.

Then, anxiety –

Low levels of stress and anxiety are a part of most people’s lives. Experiencing these feelings does not always mean that you have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders happen when anxiety interferes with your daily life, halting your ability to function, and causing an immense amount of stress and fear, almost constantly. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, such as PTSD or OCD, but the most common is Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This refers to general constant, severe anxiety that stops you from feeling ‘normal’.

So now that you know what to look out for, what do you do?

The first thing is to open up to someone. It doesn’t have to be a counsellor, just talking to a friend and sharing how you feel could help you feel lighter. When you feel ready you should open up to a professional.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Don’t stay miserable, ask for help.

Are you LinkedIn?

As many final year students embark on the final stretch of their university careers – the looming threat of “what next?” persists. The job market – particularly for media students – can be a thrilling yet distressing prospect.

However, the idea of “networking” is perhaps a step in the right direction, especially when dipping your toe in the cold waters of cut-throat job seeking. This endeavour may seem frightening at first – but there is a platform that seemingly makes the transition from lecture room to board room easier.

LinkedIn, is simply put, a career-networking platform that assists in the job “’hunt”.  It is a professional online presence that will help you connect with like-minded industry professionals.

The social media platform, which was created in 2003, has around 500 million users. If that is not enough – it also has a geographical reach in 200 countries. Pretty impressive for something that began in co-founder, Reid Hoffman’s, living room. To this day, their core vision and purpose of professional “connection” perseveres.

In today’s technological space and digital generation, having a professional and “clean” online space can only be a positive. Furthermore, it is no secret that employers use social media platforms to “screen” potential employees.

However, what do students of Nelson Mandela University have to say about this “linked in” zone? Is it truly a good networking platform?

 “I found that LinkedIn is quite useful in making connections and growing your corporate network. It’s even better if you can get recommendations and endorsements from well-known people”, says Siba Gwavu, a current final year BA Media, Communication and Culture (MCC) student.

“I worked earlier full-time this year as a project co-ordinator; finding out the relevant names of people you need to speak to – be it directors, Public Relations (PR) [practitioners] or Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) – is tough. LinkedIn made it a little bit easier”, Gwavu adds.

Denise Grey, another BA MCC student, emphasized that she felt the platform was suitable for individuals with a “working portfolio”. All in all, reactions were positive, especially from students studying and working part-time.

Another perspective was obtained by a working professional. Artist, tutor and part-time graphic designer, Jonathan Silverman, stated, “It’s useful for networking with other professionals within your field. The benefits are that you can be headhunted by companies looking for potential talent. LinkedIn is ideal for building a professional network.”

According to the publication GradX, tips for a striking LinkedIn profile include: writing a strong summary, headline and URL; including relevant contact details and work experience; avoiding “buzzwords” and embracing originality; and incorporating an appropriate and up-to-date photograph. It is also important to showcase your accomplishments, use targeted job descriptions, and add connections thoughtfully.

Furthermore, do not despair if – as a recent graduate – you do not have formal “work experience”. Internships, volunteer work, holiday jobs, and university society positions – all count. Volunteer work, especially, suggests character, uBuntu and willingness to work.

All in all, LinkedIn is a wonderful platform to make use of once you’re officially in the job market. One should never underestimate the power of creating lasting connections in your career of choice.

Youth Culture

Stealing from grandma’s closet? Tailored pants, dungarees, multi-coloured jackets and fanny packs (yes fanny packs!) – these are just a few of the clothing and accessory items one notices while walking through South campus.

There’s a fashion ‘bug’ in the air and everyone seems to have caught it. Fashion has always been about making a statement; sometimes it is simple and subtle, but it can also be bold and bright. The clothes we wear are an extension of ourselves and give physical form to our various personalities and emotions.

Trends come and go in the blink of an eye and it does not take much for something to start trending among students – it just needs to appeal to the student body.

Some of the most common trends are not limited to clothing; but also include hair and piercing trends, among girls and guys, alike. The fact of the matter is, as much as we claim to want to be unique, we all want to fit in with everyone else.

Though as with anything there will always be those who go against the grain and do not follow, nor agree, with all the trends in and around campus. They are always easy to spot.

As in the case of Sbu Sikani, “I hate those coloured jackets, they’re ugly. They don’t fit in with my aesthetic. I prefer a clean look.”

“Fanny packs are cool. Rocky [Balboa] made them cool; also, they fit in with my simple style”, says Thabo Makalima.

These are just a few students who don’t follow ‘the wave’ and seek to create their own trends. They don’t necessarily need something to be considered cool, by their peers, in order for them to wear it.

“A follower just follows a trend. A fashion leader gives life to fabric and conceptualises the fabric to bring about a life to it,” says Imkhitha Mani, a Nelson Mandela University student and fashion stylist.

It is quite evident that there is an abundance of creativity and love for the fashion culture throughout campus.


It’s no secret that we are often a confused generation when it comes to things pertaining to our future. This is one of the reasons behind why so many students find themselves in tertiary qualifications they have no interest in.

From a young age, most people have at least a vague idea about what they aspire to be; but as we grow older we develop into different people and these ideas often change. Knowing what you want to do with your life, influences all the decisions you make after matric, in terms of what university you would like to attend and what qualification you would like to study towards.

At university, there are typically two types of student groups; the first being those who have a ‘thirst’ and drive for knowledge and enjoy learning new things.

“I would be at university for the next 20 years if I could, studying different courses,” says Sbu Sikani, a former Nelson Mandela University Law student, who is currently studying film.

“I want to change from Public Relations (PR) to Law because I feel as though PR is not intellectually challenging enough for me,” says Zenande Bidli.

It is quite clear that both these students have quite the academic appetite and feel they are ‘fluid’ enough to study any course they set their sights on.

The second group are students who are unhappy in their courses due to various reasons; ranging from family pressures, to being misinformed about their current field of study. Students often choose courses without being certain of what their qualification entails. This directly results in their unhappiness; and most of the time this is realised at a much later stage, when one is close to graduating.

Choosing the right course is probably one of the biggest decisions any teenager will ever have to make; and more often than not, they are not given the proper tools to make an informed decision, which later results in personal dissatisfaction.


When it comes to unleashing your inner child, everyone is different. However, there is only one event that creates an environment that allows us all to blend as one – Con.ect Port Elizabeth. Con.ect is an annual weekend-long event that brings together video gamers, comic lovers and cosplayers.

The concept of the convention originated back in 1970, in San Diego. The event was named the San Diego Comic Con, which has now spread across the world, and is independently organized.

Con.ect Port Elizabeth is co-organised by Janelle Vermaak, a program coordinator at Nelson Mandela University, in the Department of Journalism, Media and Philosophy.

The previous editions have seen various organisations partaking in the exhibitions. This year, students from Nelson Mandela University’s media department will be volunteering at the promotions, organised to raise awareness for the main event.

The 2017 edition of the “geek fest” will be hosted at Baywest Mall during the first weekend of September, with tickets ranging from R50 for a day to a weekend pass of R80.


Graduating from university is exciting, but it’s deciding what to do after you graduate that can be rather stressful. Do you continue with school or start looking for work? Some students may have it all planned out, whilst others prefer to live in the “now”.

It is important to know what your options are after graduating, in order to properly decide what you want and where you are going. Make use of career guidance centres, career fairs and any other resources that are offered. Talk to those who have graduated from your field – you may learn a thing or two. Furthermore, step out of your comfort zone and take risks, it will only build your self-confidence.

Life after graduation is not as “scary” as people make it seem. However, in order to be successful, you have to be persistent, determined and hard working. It’s okay to make mistakes – use them as learning curves.

As stated by Christian D. Larson, “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle”.


Student life can be quite hectic. Between lectures, assignments, group work and tutorials – students have become professional “jugglers”. However, there is one, dare I say, vital part of student life: the social scene!

The social scene is regarded as important by most Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) students. “The club and party scene is there to give you a platform to mix and mingle with other students, from different social circles”, states Unathi Mdliva, a 3rd year Information Technology student.

Aya Dyani, a 1st year Law student, also states, “I think it’s important to us, as students, as it allows us to relax, unwind and forget about that assignment due on Monday, or that looming test you have been procrastinating about.”

Fortunately, Port Elizabeth (PE) boats a serious student event line-up. Events such as “Just Groovin” at Gondwana Café (for the electronic dance music lovers), Student Social Thursday (SST) at Cheerleaders, and “Chillaz on Chapel” at The Rooftop Garden Bar (for a more relaxed, sundowner’s kind of vibe) – aim to chase away those student “blues”