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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) continues to commend all its essential service workers for their dedication and commitment in providing services to the DUT community during the COVID-19 pandemic. DUT’s Communications team’s Simangele Zuma spoke to Mr Sihle Mbanjwa, Acting Director at the DUT Student Services & Development (Midlands Campuses).

Q: Kindly tell me about your role at DUT?

A: “I am an Acting Director at the DUT Student Services & Development (Midlands Campuses). My role includes ensuring the functionality of the Student Counselling & Health, Student Governance & Development and Sports Administration departments in the Midlands Campuses of the DUT. I also play an active role of convening the DUT COVID-19 Task Team at the Midlands.”

Q: How long have you been in that role?

A: “I have been a staff member at DUT for the past 15 years in the roles of psychologist and senior psychologist, respectively. I have been in the current role of Acting Director for over 3 years, with the onset of COVID-19 in April 2021.”

Q: Please describe yourself in a few words?

A: “I am a family oriented person as well as a kind and simple individual, I take pride in the work that I do. I am a dedicated and committed person who holds the ethos that all people have something within them which they can contribute to the betterment of human kind. I subscribe highly to the values connoted by the concept of Ubuntu, which states “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, loosely translated as “no man is an island, we are because of others”. I also believe in fairness as a lived principle.”

Q: How has it been like working during COVID-19?

A: “Working during the COVID-19 pandemic has presented both challenges and opportunities. Our normal way of life has been put through the test and that has challenged all of us to explore the new ways of doing things, characterised mainly by the changes from physical interactions to interfacing by means of technology “the virtual way of interaction”. COVID-19 has also seen many of us losing loved one: family, friends and colleagues, many of the people who lost their lives during the early stages of the pandemic perished alone, without their loved ones around them, due to the protocols and regulations that were put in place to manage the spread of COVID-19. Some people could not even have closure as they buried their loved ones under abnormal circumstances. The opportunities have been mainly in adapting to and maximising technology utilisation to interface and interact with one another in an unprecedented way. This COVID-19 pandemic came at the height of the 4IR narrative and compelled us to face the elephant in the room.”

Q: How do you deal with the fear of contracting COVID-19 and losing loved ones due to this virus?

“The only way possible is to comply with the basic preventative protocols of maintaining a social distance, washing and sanitising the hands regularly, wearing of mask, avoiding mass gatherings as much as possible and getting vaccinated. Adhering to these protocols and getting vaccinated are by far the known means that can reduce the risk for all of us. Vaccine hesitancy which is caused by a number of factors, amongst which is misinformation and misconceptions are a cause for great concern in dealing with the realities of contracting Covid-19. I have taken my stand and have had my jab.”

Q: What is your daily motivation?

A: “A stich in time saves nine: Timely and decisive action can counter a potentially devastating event. The little actions in the small parts of a whole do go a long way to address the big challenges. I always ask the question: How do you eat an elephant? The answer is, “one bite at a time”, and in time the elephant will be finished. The little acts in the right direction are as good as the big ones over time.”

Q: Please take me through a normal day in your life?

A: “My day usually starts with a snapshot at the calendar to scan what my day’s activities and events are. Then it is checking and responding to e-mails. In the midst of my daily activities (meetings/ webinars/ stakeholder engagements, etc.), I have to engage with the departments in our unit to address urgent operational and administrative issues and queries. I often have to prioritize which matters are more urgent than others and start with the ones which most urgent. My afternoons are spent at home with my family and my two adorable puppies.”

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: “I am a dynamic person, who loves listening to music, doing gardening, and jogging and skipping to keep fit. I also enjoy reading and writing. I also enjoy an occasional session with my friends and family. Because of my upbringing, I also have a thing for subsistence farming: crop and cattle.”

Q: If you had one wish what would it be?

A: “My wish would be that none of us give up on the hope of a possibility for a happier, brighter and prosperous South African future, that we saw the seed of belief in each other even when it is difficult and all seem doom and gloom, that we start doing our bit now in all our little corners to make contributions towards the kind of future we want for our beloved country.”

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