Cape Town – EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said his mother "wept" after he received a letter from Witwatersrand University on Friday stating that he’d been awarded his PhD in political studies.
Ndlozi, 32, was the first member of his extended family to get a university degree.
“After I found out this afternoon, I called my mother first of all… she couldn’t say two sentences and just wept over the phone,” Ndlozi told News24 on Friday evening.
“It still feels surreal, I am immensely grateful. I am humbled and grateful for all the support that I received from my brothers and sister and my grandmother – everyone was very supportive - and my friends in academics who help me persevere.”
Ndlozi’s thesis focused on the psychological shift in youth in the The Vaal Triangle during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
The area includes Sharpeville, Boipatong, Bophelong, Evaton, Orange Farm, Heidelberg, Zamdela, and Potchefstroom.
“The death of apartheid was written in the moment of ’76 when it became fashionable as a young high school youth to be politically active.
“That’s how society changes, when the collective consciousness of those people on the ground change… that has important lessons for us today. South Africa today is facing a generational divide and it is increasing youth who can drive change.”
Ndlozi, the youngest member of the EFF in parliament, said it was not an easy journey completing the PhD.
He first started with it in 2010, but gave up in 2015 after he received negative feedback from his supervisors at the time.
“I went to tell the CIC (Julius Malema) that I won’t be able to do it because it requires me to find the time that I do not have. I said I’d rather turn my research into meaningful essays.”
“He was the first person to tell me that he won’t accept it; that I should finish my research.”
At the time, Anthropology Professor Eric Worby emailed to Ndlozi to ask the young student how he was coping with the research.
Ndlozi sent Worby a draft of his thesis after which the two worked together to finish the thesis.
“Worby understood my experimental way of writing. He said the PhD is two or one drafts away from being completed, which gave me the motivation to complete it.”
Worby, the director of graduates at the university, said he reached out to Ndlozi because he “has always been an exceptional leader”.
“He has always been an important figure as a student leader, and also a scholar who is very sophisticated in his thinking.”
Worby said he is “enormously proud” of Ndlozi.
“He is one of the most exceptional young minds in this country. It was an extraordinary experience to see his growth. It is just wonderful to watch his capacity not just to put time into what he’s been entrusted with, but his capacity for new ideas. He is always investigating and hungry for new perspectives.”
Ndlozi started his humanities degree at the University of Witwatersrand in 2004.
He said the PhD “opens the door to an academic career”, but he will stick to politics.
“In a way, while this is the highest achievement at university, in the end, there is a big big sense of emptiness, because it was a radical process to understand how much you still don’t know.”
Ndlozi plans on turning his doctorate into a book and not to “just leave it there".