When Kudzanai Shambambeva walked through the doors at KPMG in January 2016 it heralded his overcoming the toughest obstacle he has faced in his 25 years.
Zimbabwean-born Kudzi (as he is known) had completed a BCom, passed his first board exam and was scheduled to begin his articles early in 2015 when he was refused a work permit.
Only then did he find out the immigration laws had changed the previous year. “The Department of Labour had to investigate whether a suitable South African could take the job and if someone could, I supposedly had no chance,” he says.
Ironically, Kudzi was conceived in South Africa, while his Zimbabwean mother was working there. His late father was a South African, but things didn’t work out between the couple and his mother returned home to give birth.
She later married a soldier and they had a little girl. Life was fairly good until 1999, when his stepfather suffered brain damage in a car accident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Kudzi, who was nine at the time, became responsible for looking after the family, especially his stepfather. He had to feed the family on the 100 pula a month his mother sent home, at a time when Zimbabwe’s economy was disintegrating.
“We queued for hours outside shops to get the few things on the shelves, which were way overpriced,” Kudzi says. He grew mielies to grind into meal, and other vegetables so they could eat.
Kudzi found his academic strengths were in maths and physical science and chose them for his A-levels.
He was put into Grade 11. “There was a lot of violence in my school. It was not unheard of for someone to scale the school wall and come and stab someone in class. I was not used to this.”
Kudzi’s maths teacher saw his potential and sent him to the Kutlwanong weekend school set up by private business to help students strong in maths, science and accounting. He attended every weekend and was rewarded for his hard work and high marks. One reward was a holiday at a hotel in Durban – the only real holiday Kudzi has ever had. “One day I want to be able to take my grandmother to a hotel like that, so she can experience what it is like to eat nicely and be served,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye.
Whether or not his letter made a difference, Kudzi’s waiver was eventually granted. On 17 December 2015 he was following up on his work permit when Home Affairs told him they would issue it there and then.
“I was ecstatic! I couldn’t wait to start work in January.” And now, Kudzi is working hard and loving every moment of living his dream.
“I was so pleased I wouldn’t have to worry about a job when my degree was finished.”