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Ms Sibongile Mkhabela

The Order of Luthuli in

Ms Sibongile Mkhabela Awarded for:
Her excellent contribution to the well-being of children, young people and her gallant fight against injustice. She is part of the legendary 1976 youth that distinguished themselves with their bravery against apartheid.
Profile of Ms Sibongile Mkhabela

Ms Sibongile Mkhabela is a social worker by profession and an activist by orientation. She was among the 11 student leaders arrested in connection with the 1976 student uprisings. She was held in the Fort Prison in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, and Kroonstad Prison in the Free State.

Mkhabela is the current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) as well as the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust (NMCHT). She has not only been instrumental in growing the fund’s endowment but also in captaining the navigation of its strategic direction to change the way society treats its children and youth.

Her tenure as CEO has seen the organisation position itself as a critical player in issues affecting children and youth, their families and communities. The NMCF footprint has extended beyond the borders of South Africa to encompass southern Africa. In 2009, the fund’s Board of Trustees seconded Mkhabela to assume the role of CEO of the NMCHT.

Chaired by Ms Graca Machel, the NMCHT was tasked with the vision of pioneering the establishment of a second dedicated children’s hospital in southern Africa. This vision was realised when the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital was launched in December 2016.

The hospital is a 200-bed tertiary and quaternary academic referral hospital serving the children of southern Africa, irrespective of their socio-economic status. The hospital is situated in Parktown, Johannesburg and was built on land donated by the University of the Witwatersrand. The hospital is a concrete expression of former President Nelson Mandela’s legacy, with the aim of improving the quality of paediatric care, research and training in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is through Mkhabela’s passion, drive and determination that all the funds required to design, construct and equip the hospital were raised through a global capital campaign personally led by her. It was her personal struggle that inspired and drove her to have a world-class children’s hospital for South Africa.

She is also a Joel L. Fleishman Civil Society Fellow at Duke University in North Carolina, USA and completed her postgraduate Business Management studies with the University of the Witwatersrand’s Business School in Johannesburg.

Her work in senior positions at the United Nations (UN) Development Programme, UN Education Programme in Southern Africa and the South African Council of Churches, has added to her wealth of experience on development issues.

Part of that experience saw her serve in the office of then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki as Programmes Director responsible for programming and establishing the National Development Agency. Mkhabela’s role in this position also ensured that South Africa implemented UN agreements on the rights of the child.