Monday, 09 December 2019

Thriving Despite Adversity

ACHIEVER: Zana Ncube ACHIEVER: Zana Ncube

A freak accident which saw her mother lose multiple limbs in a train accident wasn’t enough to derail a CPUT student from her dreams of graduating with a Bachelor’s pass in Architectural Technology. The tragedy had an unexpected silver lining after the young architect ended up starting a small business based on cowhide accessories which took her all the way to the US on a scholarship tour.

Nomakhosazana Ncube or Zana as her friends call her has had an extra-long and bumpy road to the CPUT Summer graduation stage. On a daily basis, she struggled to complete assignments because of rolling blackouts in Zimbabwe, where she was completing the Open Architecture course via correspondence. To complete online critique sessions she was forced to connect a power cable from her car battery to her laptop and work from the backseat of her vehicle. Lecturers also made special allowances for Zana, and other Zimbabwean students, by scheduling critique sessions for around midnight because electricity usually kicked in for a few hours between 11 pm and 4 am.

“There you are at 2 am sitting on your backseat, occasionally running your battery so that it won’t go flat. You think maybe this is the universe telling you that maybe this isn’t for you,” says Zana.
“But then you look at how far you have come and you keep going.”

Unfortunately for her things were about to get much worse when her mother was involved in a near-fatal train accident in Victoria Falls in 2018 when she fell under a train and severed her legs.

“I remember that dreaded next-of-kin call. In a flash I went from excitedly waiting for mid-year block assessments to wondering if my mother would be a corpse,” says Zana.

After a three-month hospital stay, Zana’s mother was discharged from hospital and she dedicated herself exclusively to her caregiving. Eventually, she was forced to make the difficult decision to defer her studies until her mother had fully recovered.

The unexpected spare time frustrated Zana and she soon found a creative outlet that would allow her to stay home with her mother while also earning a living. She founded A Tribe Called Zimbabwe which is a range of fashion items based on Zimbabweans love for Nguni cattle.

“The goal of the company was to celebrate the rich history and culture of Zimbabweans and showcase our fashion identity,” she says.

“I would wheel my mother into the dining room to watch me work on the cow horns and hide and it gave us something else to talk about other than pain and hospital visits.”

Zana was later chosen for a Visitor Leadership Program for women in entrepreneurship and went to the US in December 2018.

The networking programme was a life-changing experience and exposed A Tribe Called Zimbabwe to an international audience. All the while Zana resumed her studies and is now on track to graduate with her classmates.

Today Zana’s mother Judith Maposa has recovered enough to travel to South Africa and will watch her daughter graduate during the Spring Grad series.

“She is such a strong character. It wasn’t easy to watch your mother nearly die and soldier on. I told her if my life is over then hers has to go on and I am so proud, that despite everything she went through she pulled through,” says Judith.

Written by Lauren Kansley

Tel: +27 21 953 8646

Liaises with the media and writes press releases about interesting developments at CPUT.