From Student to Benefactor: Thabo Ntseare's Journey of Giving Back to UCT

06 Jun 2024
Thabo Ntseare
06 Jun 2024
Thabo Ntseare

Meet Thabo Ntseare, a Chartered Accountant and UCT alumnus with a B.Com and PG Diploma in Accounting, who is CEO of Uhambo Reit.  He is an avid ambassador for UCT, who really enjoyed his time studying at UCT and is generously giving back to ensure that deserving students are afforded the opportunity of studying at his alma mater.

Journey to UCT
Thabo grew up in the East Rand in Springs and went to school at CBC in Springs.  For his last two years of high school, he went to boarding school at Queens College.  Being at boarding school eased the transition for him of moving all the way to Cape Town to study at UCT.  He stayed in Leo Marquard residence and made great friends there – many of whom he still sees on a regular basis.  He had two or three friends from his home town, who he had grown up with, who were at UCT, which is why it was a natural progression for him to choose to study there.  Thabo describes how he felt at home at UCT and enjoyed the experience of being with people from many different backgrounds.

Highlights of his time at UCT
Thabo made the most of every opportunity as a student, playing tennis and joining SHAWCO and teaching accounting to high school students on Saturdays.  What shocked him was that when he asked one of the learners what they had covered the week before in school, the learner said that their teacher had not been there because he was studying at another university.  He realized that his input was the only teaching these learners would be receiving. 

“Being at UCT was an amazing and interesting experience, being with like-minded people and meeting different personalities from such varied backgrounds.  I went to the graduation of one of my friends and only discovered then that the first time this friend had seen a flushing toilet, was when he came to UCT.  Ninety percent of my close friends are friendships I made at UCT.  We were best men at each other’s weddings and see each other two to three times a month”, he said.  

Forging a career after leaving UCT
After the successful completion of his degree and being placed on the Dean’s merit list, Thabo did his articles at Ernst & Young, followed by time at Rand Merchant Bank.  He then felt drawn to going into property and building up his own business. This was capital intensive, so he partnered with an ex-client from RMB to build a property business and was instrumental in raising money for the business, and he was thankful for his time in the bank which had prepared him for this and speaking the language of the banks.  He thoroughly enjoys what he does: the corporate focus, working with a large team and bringing in experts to assist with best practice and systems.  No doubt very inspiring and encouraging to see his own vision brought to life and thriving as a business. 

Disparities that moved Thabo to consider those less privileged
When asked what propelled Thabo to donate to UCT, he describes how the disparities between students who have and those who don’t was made clear to him in a powerful way.  He was walking past Student Affairs one day and he saw a long line of students queuing up for financial assistance and this really moved him.  He could see and feel the desperation in their faces.  In his mind, these were students just like him – who had got 6 A’s for their matric, had worked hard and done well to be accepted into UCT. Through no fault of their own they did not have the financial resources for their education and living expenses.  Thabo says that to this day, that picture remains in his mind and is a motivator to support deserving students in need.  

Why does Thabo give back to UCT?
Thabo was reading the list of donors at the back of a graduation booklet and realized that he didn’t see a single black donor’s name.  This propelled him to become a donor and he gave R500, because that was all he could afford at the time.  When he received a thank you letter from the alumni office for his donation, he was completely amazed and this had a lasting impression on him.  He shared how being invited to a donor recognition event, where he was sitting next to big donors surprised him. That his contribution would be valued as much as that of a mega-figure donation was illuminating to him.  

From this point on, whenever he could, Thabo gradually gave more money to UCT because he wanted to change the experience for current generations of students who didn’t have the resources he had and deserve an opportunity to have access to fulfilling their potential and achieving their goals and dreams. 
The stories of how funding has impacted and changed the lives of the students who are the beneficiaries of donor funding always inspire Thabo.  

He comments that many people are worried about their own lives, educating their own children and providing for them and their families.  However, he encourages others to make a contribution wherever possible. Thabo tells the story of a good friend of his who did not have calculators at his school when he was growing up – and now he donates calculators to the schools so that the learners can have access to this basic necessity for mathematics success.  This initiative, like Thabo’s own contributions, pave the way for others to reach beyond the obstacles that limit their progression.  

What does Thabo do in his spare time?
While he enjoyed playing sport and running, at the moment Thabo spends most of his time taking his children to their sports games and matches.  He has three young children who keep him busy and running around. He used to run marathons and half marathons and hopes to find time to get back to that sometime!

When asked where he will send his children to study one day - given that he lives in Johannesburg and that his wife is a WITS alumnus - he comments, "UCT without a shadow of a doubt"! UCT clearly runs blue in his veins!