In 2004, Professor Neo Rhoda Mathabe became the first black woman to be appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor at Unisa.

The year 2004 saw Unisa merge with Technikon South Africa and Vista University’s Distance Education Campus. Although the political and administrative challenges were immense, a group of dedicated leaders drove the merger to its successful completion. Among them was Professor Neo Mathabe, a registered counselling psychologist and an expert in educational guidance and counselling with a PhD in Education from Rhodes University. Mathabe had been the Technikon’s Vice-Chancellor and had also served as Dean of Students at the University of Cape Town and as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of the North West. In all these positions, she had the distinction of being the first black woman appointee. Born in Pretoria, she had lost both parents at an early age and was raised by two strong-willed aunts — a nurse and a schoolteacher, respectively. Later, as a champion of recognition for women in the workplace, Mathabe would attribute her determination to them.