Busisiwe Mpembe builds a bright future in construction

Busisiwe Mpembe is the last born of 6 children. She grew up in a small farming town in the Free State called Heilbron. She studied a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management at Wits University, under the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment. Later, she did her honours part time in Construction Management at the University of the Free State faculty of  Natural and Agricultural Science. Busisiwe has been serving on the South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP) Construction Management Development Committee for 6 years. She has founded organisations such as CIOB Novus and Chix with Brix. Both organisations aimed at bridging the gap and driving transformation. She has also had the opportunity to serve on numerous student bodies including the SRC at Wits University.   Currently, she is an entrepreneur in the construction and property space. She is also serving as the Executive Chairman of a research based NPO The Construction Management Foundation. Her two greatest qualities are her passion and confidence. She says, “Everything starts from within. People are drawn to those that exude confidence. Confidence brings about trust from others and once you can consistently display it, you can get everything you desire. Fake it till you make it!”

Read and be encouraged by her journey through university:

  1. What does education mean to you?

Education is the most crucial thing for any black child. Education is how we prove that we deserve a seat at the table. Education helps us become critical thinkers, it gives us confidence and gives us hope that our lives will be better than those that came before us.

  1. Why did you choose to go into the field you have chosen?

Construction was a pure calling. I didn’t even do science in high school and it was a requirement to get into the programme. I had applied for Accounting Science and Actuarial Science but my Maths HG marks were not impressive at all (57%). My 3rd choice was Construction Management because I was rushing to complete my application, I heard Tokyo Sexwale talking about construction on TV in the background and I chose construction as a 3rd and final option. I had only applied to Wits University because I felt that that was the university that would give me the best access to the future leaders of this country. By some miracle I was accepted to do Construction Management and 2 months into the year I knew that it was the degree I was meant to study. 

  1. How does your course of study help you in fulfilling the calling over your life? If you believe in a calling.

Perfectly so. I’ve even coined a phrase “Construction Managers don’t save lives, they make life worth living”. The ability to give people dignity starts with access to basic infrastructure. Proper infrastructure makes life comfortable, it makes life worth living. Professionals in the built environment can contribute immensely to ensuring service delivery to the majority of the country.

  1. There is no smooth academic journey, what are some of the obstacles that you’ve had to overcome? How did you overcome them?

I was always a 51% specialist. I didn’t do science in high school so having to do physics in 1st year was a nightmare. I ended up repeating Physics and that motivated me to get a tutor in order to perform better. It took me 5 years to complete my 3-year degree and what I did was ensure that I work on gaining experience outside of the classroom so that it was not a complete waste. Always look for the lesson and the light at the end of the tunnel. Lie to yourself if need be. I had to tell myself that I don’t have a 3 year degree after 5 years but I have a degree and 2 years’ experience so I walked into every space confident.  

  1. Has your upbringing affected your academic journey in anyway?

I was raised by teachers who understood the importance of education so they went above and beyond for me and all my siblings. They were always supportive and paid for everything including supplementary exams. I owe my qualifications to them. The support was not only financial. They gave me advice on how to build my character so that I can reach greater heights.

  1. There are students who didn’t get DP (entry requirement to be able to write an exam) for some of their modules. They are feeling discouraged. How would you advise them in this exam season?

 It happens to the best of us. I didn’t get DP for a Property Valuation in my Honours year. It was a heart-breaking moment but I took it as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board. I consulted with the lecturer a lot the following year and formed a study group. Sometimes in life we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to achieve what is meant for us.

  1. Fear is one of the biggest hindrances to success. How did you get over the fear of asking for help when you didn’t understand the work you were studying?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I tried to find those that I trusted and felt comfortable with in class because getting a tutor was not always affordable. There was also assistance at res so I went to the warden privately to ask for assistance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  2. Quotes are motivation for a lot of students. Do you have any quote which has kept you going in your journey? And who is it by?

 I relate to most quotes by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. My favourite being, “Leadership belongs to those who take it!”

  1. Would you recommend group studying?

 I would. That teaches soft skills that aren’t taught in the classroom. Furthermore, you either learn a lot or you get the ability to teach someone something they hadn’t covered or fully understood. Either of the two are great for your confidence going into exams.  

  1. How did you get over procrastination and exam stress?

I always reminded myself why I was walking the path I am and I got to a point where I believed that being lazy means I am letting myself down and not keeping the promises I’ve made to my God. Exam stress is minimized by talking to those who have been in your shoes and getting advise on the papers you are about to write. Speak out! Never suffer in silence

  1. In summary, what words would you like to extend to students writing exams?

They need to keep their eye on the prize and give it their all. They must not waste this opportunity but also remember that God’s timing is everything. It is not about when you finish with studies, it is about IF you finish.


All the best to all those writing exams. Thank you Busisiwe for the words of encouragement.


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Siyabonga from Kwa-Mashu bags a Cum-Laude for his Mathematical Statistics degree

Siyabonga Mbonambi was born and bred in Kwa-Mashu in Durban. He is the last born of 5 children and was raised by his mother. He holds a Bcom in Economics & Statistics and a Bcom Honours Mathematical Statistics degree both achieved with Cum Laude from the department of Statistics at Nelson Mandela University (NMU). He has been recognised by Allan Gray during the year 2015 and 2016 for being amongst the top 20% in his undergraduate faculty at NMU . Currently he is working within the Retail and Business Bank space at one of the top financial institutions in Johannesburg.  Read more about Siya’s journey through university and get some motivation for your exam preparations below:

Siyabonga Mbonambi graduating at Nelson Mandela University

  1. What does education mean to you?

Education to me is a journey, an unending process which does not only entail the acquisition of knowledge but also the acquisition of skills, values, beliefs, behaviour and the meaning of being alive. Education does not mean school. Education is a mental muscle trainer which is obtained correctly, can assist in one’s daily life and enable one to think holistically rather than one ‘dimensionally’. Education is about critical thinking and encouraging our minds to take something that is being said and to look at it in a different way.

  1. Why did you choose to go into Statistics?

It’s the recognition of my strengths, I believe that I am numerically strong and I enjoy solving problems involving numbers. I enjoyed mathematics and accounting more than other subjects in high school. Another reason which made me choose Statistics was because I wanted to take the “road not taken”. At the time, when I was in high school I did not know anyone that took Mathematics as a career choice and so I wanted to take that route. 

     3.  Seeing that you chose the right course of study for you, do you think it’s possible for someone to be in the wrong field of study?

Yes, the ability of being able to study and finish a course does not necessarily reflect that it is where you should be and that it is what you should have done. I think a metric which could be used to evaluate this is to ask yourself this question – in the absence of monetary benefits of the chosen field of study, would you still pursue it? Some people are studying their family’s chosen course and not theirs. Finding out what it is that you want to study (if you want to study) has to do a lot with finding yourself and answering the question of who am I.

     4. What would you say to that person who is experiencing depressing thoughts because they feel they are in the wrong field of study bearing in mind exams are around the corner? How would you motivate them?

My honest advice if someone feels as if they have taken the wrong course would be to initially stick it out, do not make extreme decisions driven by emotions. It is already towards the end of the semester, hold on to the pressure and go write and pass those exams. During the December vacation, introspect, seek advice from those who have walked in the phase of being at University/College and someone that understands the pressure that the course comes with. You are where you are in your life at this moment for a reason – keep a positive mind-set, it is okay to feel like you have had enough of the course that you do not enjoy. I would advise that the ability of being able to change your perspective (how you view the course) might change the feeling you might have currently. Sometimes you think you hate the course whereas really you hate going to class or don’t like the lecturing style of a certain lecturer- learn to distinguish between those. Seek counselling. You have started already, it’s almost over, hold on. If you enjoy the course and it has been what you have always wanted to do but you are currently failing, do not change. Failure is part of life, it is how we learn from failure that adds value in us growing and making it through life. Life is not a smooth ride. If today was very difficult for you to study, it is okay. Rest, go to bed. Try again, with a positive attitude of “I am going to make it tomorrow”.

       5. There is no smooth academic journey, what are some of the obstacles that you’ve had to overcome? How did you overcome them?

One of the major obstacles which I have had to overcome was to shy away from people who were always complaining about how difficult the course was. That energy was killing my drive. I started associating more with positive friends who were like minded and wanted the same things. I watched motivational videos online to help me keep and maintain focus. In my 1st and 2nd year, food was a major concern, it altered my ability of wanting to study. Fortunately enough for me, my friends were also going through the same and so the gathering of funds as a group really did help us because it meant that we could get an increased amount of food and an improved quality as well. I got to university thinking that I was the big shot, I am smart, because of this, this hindered me in asking for help from either peers or lecturers, which hit me really hard when I would not understand a certain concept. I had a pride issue and I realised that after failing my first semester test in a course that I thought I knew. From there I realised that I cannot do this on my own, I need help and hence the formation of various study groups which really improved my academic performance.

      6. Has your upbringing affected your academic journey in anyway? If you feel it limited you in anyway, how did you move past those boundaries?

My background has been the one sole motivator of where I am today. Coming from a location, like many other locations, characterised by teenage drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, heavy levels of crimes made me fight really hard in getting out of such an environment. My neighbourhood does not have many role models that progressed and became successful in life through by taking the academic route and for me that fueled me. I wanted to change the status quo and inspire the younger guys coming after me to show them that a career choice in a mathematically inclined field is possible.   My struggles growing up in Kwa-Mashu became motivation for me to pursue a better life, a greater life and an improved standard of living for my family and I.


We thank Siyabonga for taking time to talk to us and we wish all the students the best during this exam season. You are more than capable. Breath in and out, take it one day at a time. Share this article and follow us for more motivation on our social media platforms.