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Twenty undergraduate students who received the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship last year were congratulated by former president Nelson Mandela in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Wednesday.
The students were all visibly excited when called to come forward and sit with Madiba.
Bryony Green from Zimbabwe, who expects to finish her Mandela Rhodes Scholarship in September, said she was very thrilled as she had never met him before.
"This is a very exciting and important day for me, as well as for the whole group. Most of us have never had the opportunity to meet Mr Mandela, let alone to speak with him individually."
After obtaining her master's degree in Philosophy, Green will continue studying at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
One by one the students shortly exchanged stories with Madiba about their backgrounds and what they planned to study.
Madiba, wearing one of his distinctive silk shirts, referred to the situation in Zimbabwe when talking to Goredema Rumbidzai. He told her that she had a very big task once she returns to her country. "I hope you will be able to influence some people in Zimbabwe to do the right thing," said Mandela.
Policy and Development scholar from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Aalia Ismail, took the opportunity to convince Mandela that his work shall be continued. "I want to thank you for the work you have done, and I am sure each and every one of the scholars will strive for your legacy to be continued," she said.
Madiba shook Nyika Machenjedze's hand, a master's student from the University of Fort Hare, and pointed out that he had also studied there. He amusedly added that he had not graduated, though, because he had been expelled.
A Mandela Rhodes Scholarship offers promising young Africans the educational opportunity to study at suitable tertiary institutions. The trust's goal is to eventually create a network of principled future leaders, "with the capacity and will to advance themselves and their countries", according to the Rhodes Trust foundation
The class of 2007 -- the biggest class yet in the three years of the programme's existence -- comprises students from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.