Busisiwe Mpembe builds a bright future in construction

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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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