On 12 August 2016, a high-powered group of MUT alumni gathered for a laudatory event for one of their own at Durban’s ICC. This was a culmination of months of work between the MUT Alumni office and the ‘Alumni Masters’ as they call themselves.
The camaraderie during the event showed a very happy group of alumni who have all made it. They are the group that started off at MUT and never looked back. Soon after graduating from MUT, most of them moved to then University of Natal for further qualifications in various engineering fields and subsequently became professional engineers.
This is a cohort that grew up being told over and over about the need to choose their networks of association. They became a little family of MUT and continued to maintain connections, encouraging one another to grow further. It was thus not surprising that almost 20 years after completion, they were keen to celebrate each other’s success. The guests of honour were Mlamuli Buthelezi who had recently been appointed Transnet National Group Chief Operations Officer, TC Madikane, President South African Institute of Electrical Engineers. and Themba Mthembu, KZN MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development.
They all shared a common message with their alumni fellows: “There is need to support our alma mater in order to improve skills development in this country. Let’s not forget our roots and remember to treat everyone with dignity and respect,” they echoed as if they read the same speech.
MEC Mthembu emphasised a need “to understand the terrain within which we operate and a need to understand the colonial imprint that was imposed upon us which makes us seek to stay in jobs we were qualified for. It is thus imperative for us to become activists of change – for the youth not to be held hostage by poverty. Economic development cannot be devoured from building a non-racial society. As MUT alumni we must be aware of the massive unemployment which is a painful addition part of our society”. Mr Mthembu reminded alumni “that not to gain the world and lose your soul wisdom is better than gold.”
Chief event organisers and fellow alumni, Raymond Cele and Sifiso Vezi (Dweba) shared a light moment on the lives ‘lived at MUT’. They recalled that the guys from Jo’burg used to be fascinated by how the females used expressions like, ‘Ngeke oh’, Awuve uyisicefe’ when they courted them. This was well before 1994 when being away from one’s hometown was an issue.
For Mlamuli Buthelezi, who had even studied at the University of Louisianna, US, his message to his classmates was: “Develop a global supply chain. Have a balance of trade. Compete in the coal industry with those of Australia, Indonesia; become thought leaders and come up with solutions. Be innovative and think like the inventors of Uber. Think about the kind of equivalents we can come up with to improve ourselves. Mlamuli mentioned that now as working individuals, they used to feel bad about the fact that black students were failing badly and they formed a Black Association for Engineers to close the gap and empower black students to also excel.
His parting message was: “We must continue to plough back to this great University which opened doors for us. Lions hunt in packs. We should do that and give back to MUT.”
It was thus that when the moment to pledge arrived, alumni pledged R365 000 while setting a target of R1m towards student bursaries. Understanding the demise of engineering students who struggle to find Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities. This ends up delaying their graduation. The MUT Masters offered 25 WIL opportunities for MUT engineering students.