An all-rounder is the best way to describe Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) academic and PhD graduate, Dr Xoliswa Majola.
She started out as a young entrepreneur styling her neighbours’ hair after school at the age of 14 in her hometown of Hammarsdale to raise funds for her high school tuition.
Then she went on to perform in theatre productions including Stimela SaseZola, Sarafina, the Zulu, Celebrate 10 years of South African Democracy and Sarafina to mention a few, under the tutelage of the legendary Mbongeni Ngema and Leleti Khumalo.
Now Majola is pursuing her future in academia through lecturing and researching the fourth industrial revolution, big data, health informatics and smart cities, while exploring her passion for law by studying towards a law degree.
‘I am the first person coming from the entertainment industry to get a PhD, which is not related to entertainment. When I told Mbongeni Ngema about it, he was so excited that one of his own is getting a PhD. Somizi used to say to dancers that were getting old, they must go and look for a job at Shoprite. That hit me so hard because I knew I was not going to stay young forever and one day I will be told to go and look for a job at Shoprite. When I decided to go to university, it was just to do one degree, and go back to the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, I was convinced by my friends to enrol for honours degree since I had good results, I got an opportunity to do a Masters at UKZN and I ended up being consumed by books till now,’ said Majola.
Designing a Conceptual Model of Management Information Systems for Local Economic Development Practice in KwaZulu-Natal was the title of Majola’s thesis supervised by Dr Sachin Suknunan and Professor Brian McArthur. The research, which was conducted under the GSB&L’s Regional and Local Economic Development Initiative, a partnership between the School and the KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Department (EDTEA), was requested by the Department as its findings will be used to develop a system that can be used by all local economic development stakeholders in the province.
‘Local Economic Development (LED) is currently the focus of our country and many government institutions have to contribute in it. However, when you look at the literature, there are a number of challenges that hinder the realisation of LED,’ explained Majola.
Another important finding highlighted by Majola’s research is that as much as people want to use technology there is still not adequate support for public servants and it requires accountability and transparency which they find it difficult to adhere to.
‘The other crucial finding points to politics, where you find that one district is governed by two political parties and they tend to hide information from each other and refer to it as classified information. This alludes to the need for realisation that despite our differences we need to sort out the issue of our economy which is currently struggling and put aside political battles. The findings revealed that indeed the LED stakeholders have a lot of information that they need to share amongst each other however, there is a lack of co-ordination in this regard,’ she added.
While her heart still beats for the entertainment industry, Majola is excited about what the future holds in leadership or law and her other various roles which include being an executive member of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Staff Union (UKSU).
‘My concentration span is limited and I get bored very easily so studying can be very hard. When I teach, I fully understand that there are students like me and I make sure I accommodate them so that they will not get bored and hate studying. I believe that my story can bring hope to parents who are struggling with children who are energetic and have no career aspirations. I went and did what I loved most, being on stage and that was not enough for me, I am glad that the decision to leave entertainment industry was mine and I have no regrets,’ said Majola.
Words: Thandiwe Jumo
Photograph: Rogan Ward