Mining & Manufacturing

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Zithande Emmanuel Mbala, 35

Chief executive
iWipe

Zithande Mbala’s inquisitive nature led him from a career in accounting to the world of invention. Not one to shy away from dreaming big, his first venture, iWipe, looks to innovate an everyday product: toilet paper. Mbala describes iWipe as “smart toilet paper”. It looks like ordinary toilet paper, but can get wet without disintegrating, thanks to its delayed evaporation technology. Once wet, iWipe can be used as a wet wipe that, unlike regular wet wipes, is flushable. One of his proudest moments was seeing iWipe stocked in stores such as Pick n Pay, where it is sold with a free water dispenser. Mbala hopes his invention helps South African parents. “Poor mothers pay at least R40 for one pack of baby wipes, while a single roll of iWipe does the same job.”

Author - Andie Reeves
Danisa Nkanyani, 27

Danisa Nkanyani, 27

When Danisa Nkanyani began studying at the University of Pretoria, she did so with a scholarship propelling her towards a degree in mining engineering. Working as a mining engineer at Glencore, Nkanyani is involved in the earliest stage of the mining value chain, where she oversees the extraction of coal while upholding correct and safe mining procedures. While Nkanyani’s trajectory is on the up, she admits there were times that she let depression and anxiety get the better of her. She’s philosophical about it now. “Trust the process. It always works out for your good,” she says. Throughout, the Holy Spirit has been her biggest inspiration – her faith gets her out of bed every day. “I want people to feel empowered to do what has always seemed impossible; to understand that failure is part of the process and you can only win if you are doing something,” she says.

Hugh Maleka

Hugh Maleka

Helping kids in rural Limpopo see a brighter future is a spin-off of Hugh Maleka’s own success as a mining engineer. He’s a project leader at De Beers’ Venetia Mine and is completing a master’s in engineering, majoring in technology and innovation management. As well as focusing on his own career, he and some colleagues established the Kukanang Career Expo in 2011. Their aim was to ignite hope in their communities through education. “Kukanang targets secondary schools in rural Limpopo with limited access to information and resources, and offers career guidance, coaching, mentoring and tutoring at no cost,” he says. “Our intent is to see learners in rural areas afforded the same opportunities as those in the cities, especially in ensuring they’re well prepared for higher education.” In 2019, he was nominated along with two colleagues to represent De Beers at the inaugural United Nations Young Innovators Programme.

Every morning when I wake up, I think about how even if I make a change in one person’s life, I am still making a change.

Martin Sitefane, 29

Martin Sitefane, 29

During the past six months, Martin Sitefane secured his master’s degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and received official recognition as a professional engineering technologist. He confesses that the birth of his daughter, a few months prior to this patch of career milestones, sweetens these achievements all the more. The blazing-hot streak is not novel ground for Sitefane, whose laboratory work as a pyrometallurgist at Mintek finds him working with extreme temperatures each day. His research aims to streamline the metal extraction processes to enhance economic and commercial viability, a noble pursuit when viewed in light of South Africa’s electricity constraints. A big-picture perspective informs Sitefane’s approach to his scientific efforts. He frames the desire to create more efficient systems in the broader context of job creation and the development of a competitive local industry.

Focus on what will bring you fulfillment, but also purpose.

Lesego Mokae, 31

Lesego Mokae, 31

After cofounding a company, Lesego Mokae wanted to break the barriers limiting women entrepreneurs from entering the mining sector, a field where opportunities are few and far between. Mokae believes everything is possible, and she teaches this when she mentors and coaches rural youth. There’s a saying, “Ngwana o sa lleng o swela tharing”, which means “If you don’t speak out, you won’t get assistance”. She says: “Asking for help does not mean you are weak, it reminds us that we don’t know everything and learning from others is part of growth.” Mokae has trained dozens of women who’ve started their own businesses. She’s created more than 50 job opportunities and still finds time to invest in her community through volunteering. She has also learned the power of delegation, which not only empowers her, but also those working alongside her “in a manner that gives them room to grow both personally and professionally”.

In life, avoid comfort zones, you won’t learn or grow much there.