howing no signs of slowing down after the recent purchase of her first 2 properties this year, 27-year-old Zamantungwa Khumalo has just been appointed as the new Supplements & Special Projects Editor at the Mail & Guardian. Having broken barriers as Executive Producer at Power FM at just age 25, this #BossLady sure does brag different! BossLady’s own Zamathango Thango managed to squeeze into this powerhouse’s diary, to find out what keeps her fire burning – and what she has her sights set on next!
The first thing that strikes one about Emndeni, Soweto-born Zamantungwa is that she defiantly doesn’t answer to anything less than her first name, ‘Zamantungwa’. Whilst many, (including myself) are happy to be called ‘Zama’, this simply doesn’t fly with her!
“Well, firstly, that’s my name. There’s a warped sense of familiarity – particularly in South Africa and especially with black names…You’ll find people asking if they can shorten a ‘Nomathamsanqa’ to ‘Nom’. No, Sir! There are almost as many letters in the name, Elizabeth. So, if we’re not friends, then we’re not on a shortening-my-name-basis just yet. Besides, I’ve found that by the time people get acquainted with me as a friend, they’re already quite used to calling me by my full name”.
BL: Who/ what do you attribute your success to?
ZK: I don’t see myself as this successful 27-year-old. I’m a kasi girl from Emndeni. So there isn’t that one defining person, event or thing that contributed to where I am today. I’ve always fundamentally believed that anything that I set out to do, I’d be great at – and even be one of the best at it. It’s a deeply entrenched self-belief in my DNA.
That said, I always like to contextualise success. There are structural advantages which I had growing up, that not even my peers or next-door neighbours had. I lived in a house right on the main road, where I was continuously exposed to cars, taxis and people commuting to work daily. Our home had running water and electricity, a library right opposite us – and a clinic just up the road. I also lived with people who worked and would come back and talk about how work was, so I was used to being plugged-in and socialised into a work ethic.
We generally underestimate the psychological effects of living in a house like that vs one where everyone is unemployed or is in a rural area. So, yes, I’m great at what I do, but I’m also mindful of the fact that
“I live in an environment within South Africa where my potential meets the opportunity and I’m able to take advantage of that.
Not many South Africans who have just as much potential can realise it. There are so many barriers to entry. I was able to navigate and overcome some of the barriers I faced. We should be careful not to reduce others to ‘if only they worked as hard as I did’. Remember there are gatekeepers/barriers everywhere we go.
As much as I’ve pulled my fair share of all-nighters, I acknowledge that there were people who opened certain doors for me”.
BL: If you were to give a TED-style talk, what would it be about?
ZK: I’d talk about Ethical Leadership. We like using words like ethics and leadership and they become buzzwords but we often don’t link the two. Granted, ethical leadership decisions are not always black and white. But being stopped on the road by a traffic cop and offering a bribe of R200 because your license has expired can be just as bad as a President who ends up building a R200 million house. People tend to not look at ethical decisions from that lens. They think that they’re absolved from the small white lies they tell.
A small white lie once normalised, does eventually lead to embezzling millions. I’d talk about how living an ethical life, that doesn’t cut corners, is a deeply courageous choice.
BL: What’s keeping you up at night?
ZK: My focus is on how I can best perform at my peak. This I do by ensuring that I’m nourishing myself spiritually, and investing in my physical health and relationships. Successful people are bullish about investing in and enriching themselves. Having recently been plagued by health scares, I’ve accepted that there will always be tradeoffs. These include not being able to see friends and family as often as I’d like. One tradeoff I won’t accept is my physical and mental well-being.
“I want success, but not at the expense of my health”.
Zamantungwa told us about the dearth of info and resources available, particularly when it comes to buying property for the first time, so we scoured the Internet and found this great piece on how much you need to save up to afford a new home + other great tips to consider if you’re first time property buyer.