Poverty doesn’t deter top student

2017-05-16 06:00
Zola Mcaciso from Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay is living his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer despite growing up poor.

Zola Mcaciso from Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay is living his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer despite growing up poor.

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“Your circumstances must not determine your future. Everything is possible.”

These are not just words for Zola Mcaciso (26) from Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay who is now an employment law lawyer at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, one of the biggest corporate and commercial law firms in Africa.

Growing up in an informal settlement and faced with many challenges, giving up was not an option for him. Now he is living his childhood dream of being a lawyer.

While he was growing up, he heard about “human rights” and “laws” and wanted to understand more about them.

“I always heard people talking about rights to do this, a right for that, but at the same time I did not see those rights being afforded to the people in my community. Some spoke about law-abiding citizens whilst I witnessed crime in my community on a daily basis. This intrigued me, so I wanted to know more about this whole law thing; that’s how the whole thing started.”

His parents were domestic workers.

“We had challenges. It was a struggle to even have food to take to school. I had to be helped by my teachers at school to have shoes and uniforms but that didn’t derail my dreams.

“I would like to thank my former principal, Mrs Davids, and my former Maths teacher, Mrs Siebritz, of Moravian Primary School who helped me a lot growing up and continue to do so even today. They saw potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself at the time.

“My situation was tough but it was not different because a lot of people go through what I went through. What just sets us apart is our dreams,” he says.

Mcaciso studied Law at UWC where he was among the top ten academically performing students in his faculty throughout his degree. He graduated at seventh place on the dean’s merit list.

Even though he really is a lawyer now, he says he still feels like he is dreaming.

“I have been through a lot. My parents are uneducated. I’m the first one in my family to finish matric and finish university. I’m not just a rolemodel to my brothers and sisters; I think I have set a good example for everyone in Imizamo Yethu.

“Being the first born in the family, I didn’t have anyone to look up to growing up. I had to find hope in a hopeless situation myself, but I’m glad that today those coming behind me will have an example. Growing up I had to imagine things and work on them on my own, I had to imagine what it would take and how it would feel to become a lawyer though I have never met one before, but others now have someone they can aspire to be like,” he says

Mcasiso says he believes “everything is indeed possible”.

“I grew up in a shack. I lacked school shoes and uniforms at times. I went to school without money because my parents couldn’t afford it. Even on those days that they had money, they never gave it to me, because they knew they wouldn’t have it every day, and that on days they couldn’t give it to me as a child I wouldn’t understand. So the principle was easy: No pocket money to get used to. You eat before going to school, you eat whatever they give you at school and you come back and eat at home.

“I do not consider myself special or extraordinary at all. I am not different to any other child with dreams growing up in the townships. I just decided to work hard and chase my dreams vehemently despite my circumstances. I believe anyone can do it.”

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