Mamokgethi Phakeng Biography: Age, Children, Documentaries, Height, Net Worth, Spouse, Parents

Posted By Johnson Ajiboye

Mamokgethi Phakeng is a distinguished scholar and leader in mathematics education who has made remarkable contributions to advancing science and education in Africa and the world.

She is widely recognized for her achievements as the first black female South African to obtain a Ph.D. in mathematics education and as the former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT), the top-ranked university in Africa.

She has also received several prestigious awards and honors, such as the Order of the Baobab, the Order of Ikhamanga, and the Africa Education Medal.

She passionately advocates for social justice, diversity, and inclusion in academia and society.


  • Full name: Mamokgethi Phakeng
  • Nickname: Kgethi
  • Date of birth: November 1, 1966
  • Age: 57 years old
  • Gender: Female
  • Place of birth: Ga-Rankuwa, Pretoria, South Africa
  • Nationality: South African
  • Profession: Professor of mathematics education
  • Height: 1.65 m
  • Parents: Frank and Wendy Mmutlana
  • Siblings: Two sisters and one brother
  • Spouse: Madimetja Lucky Phakeng
  • Children: Tsholofelo Setati
  • Relationship status: Married
  • Net worth: $5 million

Early Life & Education

Mamokgethi Phakeng, who turned 57 in 2023, was born on November 1, 1966, in Ga-Rankuwa, a township north of Pretoria, South Africa.

She was the third child of Frank and Wendy Mmutlana, who were both educators and activists. Her father was one of the first black radio announcers at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and her mother was a teacher who returned to school after having three children.

She grew up in a politically conscious family involved in the anti-apartheid struggle. She attended Ikageleng Primary School in Marapyane village in 1972 and then moved to various schools in Ga-Rankuwa and Hebron.

She completed her matric with University Exemption in 1983 at Hebron’s College of Education.

She developed an interest in mathematics early on and was encouraged by her parents and teachers to pursue her passion.

She obtained her Bachelor of Education in mathematics education at the University of North-West, where she was the only black female student in her class.

She then enrolled for her Master of Education in mathematics education at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she faced many challenges and discrimination as a black woman in a predominantly white and male environment.

She persevered and completed her master’s degree in 1996 and then continued to pursue her Ph.D. in mathematics education at the same university.

She graduated in 2002, becoming the first black female South African to do so. She also obtained a higher education diploma from the University of South Africa (Unisa) in 1997 and a postgraduate diploma in higher education from the University of London in 2000.

Personal Life

Mamokgethi Phakeng is married to Madimetja Lucky Phakeng, a lawyer and the chair of the Takeover Regulation Panel.

They met in 2004 and tied the knot in 2007. They live in Cape Town, South Africa. She was previously married to Richard Setati, a mathematics lecturer, with whom she had a son, Tsholofelo, born in 1990.

She divorced Setati in 2003 after 13 years of marriage. She is a devoted mother to her son, a mathematician, and a lecturer at the University of Johannesburg. She is also a proud grandmother to her grandson, Lethabo, born in 2018.

She is a Christian and attends the Grace Bible Church. She is also a fitness enthusiast and enjoys running, cycling, and swimming.

She has participated in several marathons and triathlons and has completed the Cape Town Cycle Tour and the Ironman 70.3.


Mamokgethi Phakeng started her academic career as a lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1996, where she taught mathematics education courses and supervised postgraduate students.

She also served as the director of the Centre for Research in Mathematics and Science Education and the chair of the Mathematics Education Research Group.

She was promoted to associate professor in 2003 and full professor in 2007. She also held visiting positions at several universities abroad, such as the University of Cambridge, the University of Nottingham, and the University of Michigan.

In 2008, she joined the University of South Africa (Unisa) as a mathematics education professor and the executive dean of the College of Science, Engineering, and Technology.

She was the first woman to hold this position and was responsible for leading and managing the largest college in the university, with over 40,000 students and 1,200 staff.

She also served as the vice principal of research and innovation at Unisa from 2011 to 2016, overseeing the development and implementation of the university’s research strategy and policies.

She was instrumental in increasing Unisa’s research output and quality and establishing several research institutes and centers.

In 2016, she was appointed deputy vice-chancellor of research and internationalization at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where she led the university’s research portfolio and internationalization agenda.

She also served as the acting vice-chancellor of UCT from October 2017 to June 2018 following the resignation of Dr Max Price.

She was elected vice-chancellor of UCT in July 2018, becoming the first black woman to hold this position. She led the university with vision and passion until 2023 she retired early. Professor Daya Reddy succeeded her on March 13, 2023.

As the vice-chancellor of UCT, she was responsible for the university’s overall strategic direction and governance, ensuring its academic excellence, financial sustainability, and social responsiveness.

She also championed the transformation and decolonization of the university and promoted a culture of inclusivity, diversity, and respect.

She initiated several projects and programs to enhance the teaching and learning, research and innovation, and social impact of the university, such as the UCT Global Strategy, the UCT Vision 2030, the UCT Transformation Framework, the UCT Research Excellence Awards, the UCT Future Leaders Program, and the UCT Distinguished Teacher Awards.

She also fostered strong partnerships and collaborations with various stakeholders, such as the government, the industry, the civil society, and the international community.

She also represented the university in various national and international platforms and forums, such as the Association of African Universities, the International Association of Universities, the World Economic Forum, and the United Nations.

She is also a prolific researcher and author who has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and conference papers and has edited four books.

She has also delivered over 100 keynote addresses and public lectures and has participated in several radio and television programs.

She has also supervised and mentored over 30 master’s and doctoral students and has received several research grants and contracts.

Her research interests include mathematics education, teacher education, curriculum studies, and higher education studies.

She is also a member of several professional associations and societies, such as the South African Mathematics Foundation, the African Mathematical Union, the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction, and the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Net Worth

Mamokgethi Phakeng has an estimated net worth of around $5 million. She has earned her wealth from her successful career as a professor and a vice-chancellor, as well as from her various awards and honors.

She also earns income from her books, publications, speaking engagements, and consultancy services.


Mamokgethi Phakeng has faced some controversy and criticism during her career, especially as the vice-chancellor of UCT.

Some of the issues and challenges that she encountered include:

The student protests and unrest erupted in 2019 and 2020 over various demands and grievances, such as fees, accommodation, curriculum, language, and decolonization.

She had to deal with the disruptions and violence that affected the academic activities and the safety of the university community.

The allegations and complaints that were raised against her by some staff members and students, who accused her of misconduct, abuse of power, nepotism, corruption, and racism.

She faced several investigations and inquiries and defended herself against the charges and claims. She denied any wrongdoing and maintained that she acted with integrity and professionalism.

She also received support and solidarity from many colleagues and stakeholders, who praised her for her leadership and achievements.

The criticism and backlash that she received from some sectors of society, who questioned her qualifications, credentials, and competence.

She had to deal with the stereotypes and prejudices that were directed at her as a black woman in a position of authority and influence.

She had to cope with the pressure and expectations placed on her as a role model and a trailblazer. She also faced hostility and resistance from groups and individuals who opposed her vision and agenda for the university and the country.

The controversy and debate that she sparked with some of her statements and opinions were considered controversial, provocative, or unpopular by some people.

She had to deal with the reactions and responses generated by her social media posts, public speeches, and media interviews.

She had to explain and justify her views and perspectives and engage in dialogue with her critics and supporters. She also had to deal with the consequences and implications of her words and actions and their impact on her reputation and credibility.

Despite the controversy and criticism she faced, Mamokgethi Phakeng remained resilient and determined, and she continued to pursue her goals and aspirations.

She also remained humble and gracious and acknowledged her mistakes and shortcomings. She also remained optimistic and celebrated her successes and achievements.

Social Media

  • Instagram handle: @fabacademic
  • Twitter handle: @FabAcademic
  • Facebook Page: Mamokgethi Phakeng


Mamokgethi Phakeng has yet to appear in films or television shows as of 2023.

However, she has been featured in several documentaries and videos that highlight her life and work, such as:

  • The Fab Academic: The Story of Mamokgethi Phakeng
  • Mamokgethi Phakeng: A Mathematician’s Journey
  • Mamokgethi Phakeng: The Power of Education

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