Sibling becomes first benefactor of Benjamin Phehla memorial bursary

30 May 2017

Evans Phehla, has just become the first recipient of the memorial bursary fund established in honour of his late brother, Benjamin Phehla. Benjamin died in October last year after being knocked down by a car during the #FeesMustFall protest at the Tshwane University of Technology’s (TUT) Soshanguve Campus. An emotional Evans, a first-year Computer Systems Engineering student, said he is grateful for the bursary and promised to work hard to make his family proud. 

Evans Phehla has been awarded a bursary named after his late brother, student leader and activist, Benjamin Phehla.

At the handing-over ceremony Prof Lourens van Staden, TUT’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, said, “In line with the University’s stand to honour Benjamin for his selfless contributions, this is a special day on which we bestow this bursary that was named after him.” 

He urged Evans to respect the bursary opportunity and work hard towards completing his studies. 

Prof van Staden further added that the University has resolved to award the bursary to academically deserving and financially needy students within the Faculty of Information and Communication Technology. 

“Although the Phehla family lost a son, his death was not in vain. Benjamin will always be remembered through the Phehla Bursary Fund. The impact of Benjamin’s stature as a true leader, will go down as a positive example to other leaders at TUT and the country as a whole. Having known him personally, I can confirm that Benjamin’s humility and respect set him apart as a great leader who believed in dialogue rather than confrontation,” said Prof Van Staden. 

Benjamin’s mother, Leah Phehla, said she was thankful for the opportunity offered by the University. “Although we are still trying to come to terms with the passing of Benjamin, we are happy that the University is serious about its responsibility to help and support students,” she said. 

Benjamin’s uncle, Letadi Mphai, said Benjamin met his death fighting for a good cause, therefore, naming the scholarship after him, is an honour befitting to Benjie. “His name and good deeds will be written in the corridors of the University and he will forever be remembered for his contribution to the struggle for free education,” he concluded.

In memory of deceased student leader and activist, Prof Lourens van Standen, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, on 27 October 2016, announced the Lesedi Benjamin Phehla Memorial Scholarship. 

The Scholarship that was named after him is to commemorate his contribution to the Tshwane University of Technology. The University Management has resolved that the Scholarship will be awarded to an academically deserving and financially needy student at the Faculty of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) starting from 2017. Benjamin, a final-year Information and Communication Technology student at the Soshanguve Campus, met his untimely death during student protests around the country, fighting for a fee-free, quality and decolonised higher education. 

He passed away on the night of Thursday, 20 October 2016 after being hit by a motor vehicle earlier during the day. 

On the same day, the Council of the University held a special meeting at which they resolved that no TUT student will experience a fee adjustment in 2017. Benjamin’s fight for social justice was not in vain. 

Phehla was not just a student but a student activist and leader, he oozed energy and while exuding humility and respect.  He has been described by those who knew him well as an epitome of servant leadership. He represented students in meetings and was often seen monitoring queues of students applying for registration and the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), ensuring that they had the correct information and documentation at all times. 

Prof Lourens van Staden with Leah and Evans Phehla at the scholarship hand-over at the Soshanguve Campus.

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