Today marks the first day of work for graduate Dumisani Ngobese, who was offered permanent employment after his viral emotional graduation pictures moved South Africa.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) shared images of Ngobese in tears on stage during his graduation ceremony on their social media pages on Friday, resulting in the images going viral and thousands of South Africans offering words of encouragement and some people pledging various donations.
The current Honours student, through the university, said he was overcome with emotion when he was on-stage because he was reflecting on what he called a “long and difficult” journey.
The 23-year-old was raised by his maternal grandmother in Bhukhanana, a rural area outside eMpangeni, where he was a street vendor and the sole breadwinner in the house where there were more than 10 children.
Sadly, Ngobese’s grandmother could not make the trip to see her grandson walk across the stage and get his degree conferred due to ill health.
“It was going to be difficult for her because she is not well and she would have had to take about three taxis to get here. But my mother and my aunt were present at the graduation,” he said.
The student said that despite not being able to afford to buy a suit for his graduation, it was a ceremony that he could not miss. “I could not afford to buy a suit but I just had to be there at graduation,” Ngobese said.
Less than 24 hours after his story moved the nation, the 23-year-old was offered a permanent job and funding for his studies.
Durban-based businessman Calvin Mathibeli was so touched by Ngobese’s story that he decided to create a new permanent post for the young graduate and decided to pay for his Honours degree studies, which he is currently pursuing at UKZN.
“I was so moved by his story because of his resilience but also because of the similarities that we have in terms of background. I spoke to him yesterday and I was very moved by his story,” said Mathibeli, the owner of Calvin and Family Group of companies.
The 34-year-old businessman said Ngobese’s story resonated with him because he was also raised by his grandmother in a big family.
“Our resilience has made us who we are. I want to ensure that Ngobese is able to earn a living so that he can also contribute to his family. All I need from him is to respect the job,” Mathibeli said.
The group of companies has interests in agriculture and minerals, 12 subsidiaries with offices in seven provinces and a presence in Namibia and Lesotho.
“I had other vacancies but I thought let me create one, especially for Dumisani. He will be starting work on Monday, it will be a good position and a permanent one. He said he is studying online and we will also be paying for his studies,” Mathibeli said.
He added that he will also groom Ngobese in business, if this is the path the graduate wishes to take.
“Of course, business is not for everyone. What we will do is to find out what his dreams are and we will complement them,” he said.
Reacting to the many calls from well-wishers after his picture was published, Ngobese said he was overwhelmed by the number of calls he was getting
“People have been phoning to wish me well while some have even pledged donations. I am grateful to all the people showing me love,” the young graduate said.