26 January 2021


Dr Shabalala joined UMP in February 2017 as an nGAP lecturer in Tourism & Heritage, second nGAP cohort. She gained vast experience by working in different areas within the Tourism industry - from being a customer service agent for an airline, travel consultant, travel coordinator, to events coordinator and holiday instructor, to mention just a few.

She has also worked in higher institution administration as she previously held positions such as faculty receptionist, programme administrator, faculty committee clerk, PA to HoS, School, senior administrator, administrative supporter to a Centre of Excellence, Post Graduate academic administrator, Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Coordinator and more.

On the 14th of December 2020, her Doctor of Philosophy Degree was conferred at The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) under the Faculty of Science. Her thesis is titled: Perspectives on the role of Cultural Heritage Tourism in Community Development in South Africa: A study of Mapungubwe World Heritage Site in Limpopo Province.  

“The study examined perspectives on the role of cultural heritage tourism in community development in South Africa, using the Mapungubwe World Cultural Heritage Site as a case study. The focus was to investigate how local communities and heritage custodians can benefit from cultural heritage tourism in heritage sites as it remains a concern, including the realisation of social and economic development in its true sense” she says.

“Achieving such a milestone means a lot to me, to my family, community in KaNyamazane, colleagues everybody who supported me and to every child who looks like me, including my daughter. This achievement is evidence that your background does not determine your future. Where perseverance and dedication are invested – any dream can be achieved,” she says. 

“To me, my PhD mean to carry a responsibility to conduct research that will focus on real challenges that we are facing as a country around my research area, investigating possible sustainable solutions that may potentially offer relief and benefit our local community and country as whole. It also present me with an opportunity to give back to my community through community engagement, be a better lecturer and example to my students. Through Tourism, all these will then assist me on celebrating and showcasing the significance, richness and beauty of our diverse cultures that South Africa owns and embraces.”


 “This journey was not easy but it was worth the sacrifices and it is fulfilling. I’m grateful to all the colleagues who supported me through the journey such as Dr Sabela “Dr Ma”, Dr Niyimbanira “my sister”, my nGAP mentor Prof Nongxa, my Wits former colleagues and former line managers which include Prof Crouch, Prof Momoniat, Prof Moitsheki, Prof Mason and Prof Celik.”  

Dr Shabalala explains that the journey to doing her PhD would not have been possible if it wasn’t for UMP and mostly the research office that supported her. 

“A special thank you to Prof Ric Bernard, he literally walked the journey with me. To my fathers in academia (supervisors) Prof Simatele and Prof Ezeuduji, without them this journey was impossible. I’m grateful to DHET for the nGAP, it presented me with a financial muscle and time, which resulted in the realisation of my dream of becoming an academic. I am also grateful to the local communities, the descendants of Mapungubwe royal families for welcoming me in their homes and for SANParks for granting me permission to work in one of their protected areas.”

Her advice to students is: “Know who you are, stand up for what you believe in, most importantly when I comes down to ethics choose ethics and put your trust in your God. Let’s soldier on and make education fashionable!”

@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures supplied.