On 06 December 2022, the Durban University of Technology [DUT] learned of the untimely passing of Ms Nomfundo Mbatha. Ms Mbatha was a Lecturer and Coordinator: Extended Curriculum Programme in the Department of Information and Corporate Management – Faculty of Accounting and Informatics. She joined the DUT in 1996 as a Lecturer and had 26 years of experience as an academic. In 2015 she assumed the position of Lecturer and Coordinator for the Extended Curriculum Programme for the Diploma in Business Information Management. She had a master’s degree in Master of Management Sciences in Administration and Information Management. Her focus area was on the provision of Academic Literacies, Decolonisation of the Curriculum and Epistemic Justice.

During her time at DUT as a staff member, Ms Mbatha was an activist for gender issues and actively supported community engagement programmes initiated by her students. One of her students, Mr Zakhe Khuzwayo [who won the Community Engagement Student of the Year award 2022], nominated her as the Community Engagement Staff of the Year, during the 2022 Community Engagement Excellence Awards.

In the motivation for the award, Mr Khuzwayo shared that Ms Mbatha had taken an exceptional role in supporting the work of Men Carve, a student-led organisation that focuses on the issues that young people need to address about gender. While the focus is on men, about 40% of participants in their events are women, enabling communication across gender divides. The motivation further highlighted that Ms Mbatha had taken on the role of ongoing support for the organisation, including finding venues and guiding the leadership team in its work. Ms Mbatha generously used her car and money to collect food parcels and to do school visits. Ms Mbatha participated in several panel discussions on the experiences of gender.

Mr Crispin Hemson the former Director of the International Centre of Nonviolence (ICON) also shared his tribute to Ms Mbatha. He described her as ‘great’. “Perhaps it is worth reporting, in summary, the issues of gender that Nomfundo spoke on in the panel discussions we have had. She described herself as gender-nonconforming and talked of spending time as a rural youngster playing with boys and then getting alienated because they were compulsively naughty and were so derogatory about girls. Then she played with girls and became so frustrated that, whenever someone proposed that they do something interesting, the response would be, ‘No, we can’t, because we are girls!’ The gender messages that get pushed onto youngsters – and that they then replicate – connect directly with the forms that gender-based violence takes,” he said.

Mr Hemson who was presented with the 2022 Community Engagement Lifetime Achiever Award said that he dedicated the award to Ms Mbatha. He was the programme director at her memorial at DUT and spoke of her as a sparkling jewel. “Nomfundo was vivacious, committed, and sharp. We do not need to lose such people,” he said during the memorial.

Another tribute that Ms Mbatha has received is from Ms Asanda Nzuza, a student from the Biomedical and Clinical Technology Department, Faculty of Health Sciences. Ms Nzuza initiated a programme called Sakhisizwe Campaign. Sakhisizwe Campaign strives to eliminate hunger and malnutrition by giving nutritional assistance to students and community members in need of food.  It also aims to bring about peace and prosperity by creating hunger-free communities. The initiative provides food parcels to students who are facing hunger due to a disadvantaged background, a lack of funds, or a lack of financial assistance. The initiative also targets community people in need of food who have been victims of man-made or natural disasters, such as the recent floods in KZN.

Sakhisizwe Campaign was a top three prize winner at the 2022 Community Engagement Showcase and Pitching Awards. Ms Nzuza has dedicated this award to Ms Mbatha for her support of this programme. She has changed the name of the programme to the Nomfundo Mbatha Campaign.

The DUT Engagement Community honoured Ms Mbatha by presenting her with a Community Engagement Ambassador Award. This was to acknowledge the contribution that Ms Mbatha has made to community engagement for inspiring her students to take up initiatives that change the lives and the livelihoods of others. The award was received by her HOD, Dr Smangele Moyane.

Picture: Ms Nomfundo Mbatha

Phumzile Xulu

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