Mr Tshabangu is UMP's transport officer. His duties include transporting students, staff members and documents. He is also responsible for the maintenance of the institution's vehicles and allocation of cars to other staff members or drivers in the transport department. He joined the university in 1981, which at the time was known as the Lowveld Agricultural College (LAC), as a farm worker in the department of Agriculture.
During his long and dedicated career, Mr Tshabangu has experienced and been part of many historical events. During the apartheid era, he was awarded the opportunity to study as a farm supervisor at Boskop in Potchefstroom. Once there, he was tasked with being the foreman of 22 male farmers. When women started being employed, he was promoted to supervisor of the first black female farmers.
“I enjoyed and worked very well with the female farmers. My working relationship with them was so good that other farmers would request to work with me. My duties included driving the tractors and teaching the farmers how to farm.”
In 1994, after the first democratic, non-racial, national elections, most white people left the college and Mr Tshabangu was offered yet another opportunity and promotion as a driver. Later, in 1998, he became a transport officer for the first time and was also given his very own office. He received yet another opportunity hereafter and was able to go and study computer literacy in White River.
When UMP was established, he was offered the same position at the university. "Currently there are only two of us in the transport department. We share responsibility for transporting students, servicing the university’s vehicles, and transporting important documents like exam papers.”
When asked about what the transition from LCA to UMP was like, Mr Tshabangu replies: “We were understaffed, but my experience was amazing and I love working as UMP’s transport officer. I was raised to be disciplined in all that I do and respect people regardless of age, gender or race. I have never had fights with people I work with because I do as I am told and I do it with a smile, that’s what keeps me going. Do not give up easily and am not be lazy, that’s how I got this far!”
Mr Tshabangu reminisces about the best years with the institution.
The award by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mayekiso comes after 40 years of serving the university. "I am grateful to the university and the Vice-Chancellor for giving me this award. It shows that great work always gets awarded. I am also thankful that I have an opportunity to work for this university because they also recognised the work I used to do at the college."
As a transport officer, Mr Tshabangu appreciates that his work has allowed him to travel across southern Africa. “I also got to travel the whole of South Africa by transporting documents, staff members and students. I also got the chance to visit other SADAC countries, and by transporting people from other countries in the world from the airport to campus. I’ve met lots on interesting people.”
His secret to career success and advancement is maintaining good working relationships with everyone.
“The key to maintaining a good relationship with colleagues, students and people in general, is to make sure you speak to everyone gently and with respect. My job also requires precision, because if I am careless, it can cost people their lives. I make sure the vehicles are well maintained and in good order, and I never answer my phone while driving!”
Mr Tshabangu has enjoyed many advancement opportunities during his lengthy career. He also has plenty of memorable moments that he will cherish for a long time to come. Some of these include receiving training and experience from both LAC and UMP to stay relevant and advance his career, and was commended by Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso for his efforts.
He will soon be retiring and plans to continue with his passion for agriculture. “I love farming and I feel like when I am on the farm I am in my happy place. When I retire, I will find a small plot of land where I can farm and enjoy my peace of mind.”
"After my many years of service I can see the fruits of my labour. I managed to start two beautiful nurseries which produced some of the plants you can still see on the farm today. I used to specialise in subtropical plants and produced grapes, oranges, bananas, and many more.
The iconic pine trees that surround Mbombela campus are also my handiwork, and being here to see this university’s development from day one is a moment I will always treasure.”
@ Story and Pictures By Cleopatra Makhaga.