The mother of three shot to national fame when Marius Botha thanked her on Facebook for her service.
“Today at 16:00 all her colleagues left their workstations and went home. Mrs Mkhupheka stayed and helped the last 40 customers all on her own and with a smile on her face!!! You are my hero. South Africa needs more people like you,” wrote Botha.
The post was shared over 11000 times and earned Mkhupheka a surprise visit from Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele.
“It was an incredible moment meeting the minister. I just cried because I could not hold back the tears,” recalled Mkhupheka.
Mkhupheka said the computer system had been slow that day and by knock-off time she realised there were many people who had not been assisted.
“People started panicking when the staff left, screaming ‘The staff is leaving!’ and I told them to calm down because I will assist them. I sat down and did my work with a smile on my face and by 5.30 I was done,” she said.
Mkhupheka said of her co-workers leaving at 4pm, “It is written in black and white that by 3.30pm we close and assist only those who are still inside (the office), and by 4pm everyone leaves. Home Affairs does not pay for overtime so me asking them to stay beyond 4pm would be exploitation.”
Despite only having a matric, Mkhupheka has worked in government for over 30 years.
She started out as a clerk/typist at the Justice Department in 1982 and later went on to hold posts including interpreter. Eventually she was recruited to supervise the Scottburgh Home Affairs office and has been there for 12 years.
“I will never forget when I beat everyone in the Justice Department with overtime and got paid R5000. I was earning R600 a month back then,” she recalled.
Office manager Rana de Bruin said she welcomed the attention Mkhupheka was receiving because it dispelled negative stereotypes of Home Affairs workers.
“There are many offices doing what Nosipho is doing,” she said. “Our own staff are very demoralised because people are quick to say ‘Aargh, Home Affairs!’”
Mkhupheka said she is oblivious to her online fame, since she is not on social media, but vowed to continue doing her work as best as she can.
“I always say, whether the job is big or small, do it well.”