It may be years since Slungile Ncama carried the title Abelusi, but she is still compelled to empower others to reach their goals.
Slungile ‘Slu’ Ncama wanted to be the first in her family to get a “well-recognised degree from a prestigious university”; now in her final year studying towards an LLB degree at Rhodes University, she is fulfilling that goal.
Slu believes in the importance of both minerals and maritime law to the economy and plans to do her articles working for a large law firm, followed by further study towards her Masters degree in mineral law.
“I want to be part of a profession where women are being recognised as being enough, and have the opportunity to make contributions and a difference. I want to be a thought leader within the field, making equal contributions which are as influential as my male counterparts, as the law in terms of both maritime and minerals is dominated by males,” she asserts.
Slu matriculated at Kingsway High School in Durban. “For 12 years we lived in one room at the back of the school premises, where my mother still works as a grounds and buildings general assistant. It was great having my mom there at school with me,” she says.
Awarded her academic half-colours in Grade 10, Slu was greatly motivated by this recognition. She credits her history teacher, Mrs Goldie, as being a huge inspiration and motivation to herself and the other students at Kingsway High.
“She was an amazing teacher. She believed in every single one of us. Her classes were interactive and inspiring. She made us interested in current affairs and inspired us to question and not just accept what was happening. She led us to think outside the box,” she says.
Slu developed her leadership potential at an early age, and was made an Abelusi (Zulu for herder) in matric. This entailed mentoring new students arriving from other schools, as well as Grade 10-12 students, to support them in passing matric.
Home, to Slu, is “a place of safety”. She quotes slam poet Rudy Francisco, who wrote: ‘‘Home; is any place that makes you forget the world is on fire, at least for a moment.”
Slu’s Aunty Bev has been a huge source of inspiration throughout her life. “She has supported my mom and my family in every aspect of our lives. She is my life superhero who has always motivated me and given me access to opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. She told me not to look at where I come from, but to go the extra mile and to work extra hard to achieve the things I want,” she says.
Her biggest hero is her mom, a single parent who sacrificed much to provide for Slu and her siblings. “I was determined to go to university to get my degree to show my mom her hard work and sacrifices have been worth it,” she says.
Slu loves the academic side of university life as it’s feeding her passion for the law, which she believes can be a mechanism for positive change. “We have one of the best-written constitutions in the world, but there is a problem with implementation as the people in charge of implementing it fail us at times,” she says.
“I believe law and politics should never meet. No politician should be able to find loopholes to manipulate the law in their favour. No one is above the law. The law should apply uniformly. As the Constitution says, we are all equal before the law,” she adds.
When she’s not devoting herself to her studies, Slu spends her time on a mentoring programme, 9/10ths, started by Rhodes University vice chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela. Slu mentors matric students from disadvantaged backgrounds who hope to enter university, and helps them with their studies and their university applications.
“It makes me really happy to see, because I was once there, wanting to go to university but realising it may not be a possibility for me. But now I know that if you put in the work, your dreams can start becoming reality,” she adds.
Being awarded the Moshal Scholarship has helped make her dreams come true. “It was my dream to come to university, and Moshal has reinforced that all my hard work and efforts have been recognised. Someone else believed in me,” she says.
Slu quotes Oprah Winfrey, who said: “It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you came from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always.”
“I feel that I can be an inspiration to many little girls who have a dream, to show them that no matter your background, if you work hard enough at it, stop dreaming and start doing, we all have the abilities to make our dreams come true, and silence our haters (everyone who said we cannot).”