“May I be guided by grace. May I be steadfast in what I believe in. And may I remember why I started.” — Mpho Ndaba



Stellenbosch University

Bakang Mputle, 27, is an environmental activist scholar, whose work is anchored on the two United Nations sustainable development goals — education and climate action.

His academic and research interests lie in environmental humanities, climate justice transition and political ecology. He has done an ethnographic study on the reclaimers (waste pickers) in the City of Johannesburg, who have a vital role in the waste management and recycling systems of the city.

This work has informed conversations and policy discussions with the city, Pikitup and other stakeholders. Bakang champions education for sustainable development and has done a study of how education for sustainable development is articulated in the South African Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements.

He is reading for a PhD in climate justice at Stellenbosch University and is co-authoring a book with people at the Joint Education Trust, an independent, nonprofit organisation that works with the government, the private sector, international development agencies and education institutions.

Conversations Bakang had with his late grandfather ignited the scholar in him at a young age. “He was a great teacher and a passionate geographer. He truly is my inspiration and anchor.” Another of Bakang’s passions is fine art — check Instagram for his work. He also uses the arts and photography as mediums within and outside academia for communicating environmental issues.

  • DPhil in environmental humanities, climate justice, political ecology and the just energy transition, Stellenbosch University (current)
  • MEd, University of the Witwatersrand
  • BSci Honours in geography, University of the Witwatersrand
  • BEd, University of the Witwatersrand

Certificate of first-class, University of the Witwatersrand and The Hub for Multilingual Education and Literacies (HuMEL) grant

Conversations I had with my late grandfather and looking at some of his photographs at libraries and lecture halls at the University of Bophuthatswana (now North-West University) are one of my fondest memories and ignited the scholar in me at a tender age. He was a great teacher and a passionate geographer. He truly is my inspiration and anchor.

Focus on your dreams and aspirations without letting other people’s experiences define your path. Of course, take note of advice, but take it with a pinch of salt as you have your own path, skills, experience, and will to work towards your goals matters more.

A significant reduction in socioeconomic inequalities. That way everyone has the freedom and capabilities to live according to their aspirations

Our diverse society is more unified and curious about each other’s cultures, language and experiences. There is power in connecting the dots of who we are and how we can build unity.

An incorruptible and accountable government, because South Africa still needs to ensure the economic transformation is realised. The country still has the highest inequality in the world.

A safe environment for marginalised groups that include women, children, and the LGBTQI community. 

A country where those who commit crimes are called to justice.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

Subcribe to the newsletter