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Thamsanqa Joseph Nkevu is a finalist in The Herald Citizens of the Year Awards in partnership with Nelson Mandela University.

A KwaNobuhle resident, determined to give pupils in his community the chance of a better life through education, is putting his own life on the line by facing dangerous criminals every day to make sure pupils get to school safely and on time.

For more than two decades, pupils who use the field between Solomon Mahlangu High School in Jabavu and Mqolomba streets were subjected to vicious crimes.

That was until Thamsanqa Joseph Nkevu, 43, a qualified martial arts instructor, decided that enough was enough, and took it upon himself to keep pupils and the rest of his community safe.

Rain or shine, Nkevu is up at the crack of dawn each day to patrol the area, often coming face to face with criminals, whom he chases away.

He has been doing it for the past year.

When it is time for pupils to start walking to school, Nkevu has already made sure that opportunistic criminals are gone.

Members of his community have lauded him for his efforts, resulting in him being selected as a finalist in the community category of The Herald Citizens of the Year awards in partnership with Nelson Mandela University.

Nkevu said it warmed his heart to see that his community was in a safer place, pupils were thriving in school again and people were showing a genuine appreciation for what he did.

“I don’t do it for the money or the recognition,” he said.

“I want pupils in my area to be able to go to school safely so that they can get an education to better themselves.

“I was able to experience my childhood free from criminal elements.

“That enabled me to finish school and further my education to carve out a better life for myself.

“No child should have their right to education infringed upon by criminals.

“Every child also has the right to be safe and protected, and if I can help provide that for them then so be it.”

Admitting that the task he carries out single-handedly can be dangerous at times, Nkevu said there had only been two incidents to date that had led to physical altercations.

There had also been times that he had confiscated dangerous weapons from criminals, and he found two bodies lying in the field.

“I cannot allow fear to dominate me, otherwise I will not be able to do this job every day.

“My own safety is something I don’t even think about.”

Nkevu is single and does not have children of his own.

For now, he has set aside dating and his planned postgraduate studies to focus on keeping his community safe.

His work has led to the community calling on him to help in other situations, such as incidents of domestic violence.

He even assisted in the rescue of a girl held hostage at the home of her drug-addicted boyfriend.

The distribution of food parcels and clothing to those in need in his community also occurs regularly.

To further empower the youth in KwaNobuhle, Nkevu teaches them martial arts at his dojo at no cost, a skill that he hopes will keep them off the streets and out of harm’s way.

“Knowing I have made a difference in someone else’s life is one of the best rewards, and the only reward I need,” he said.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 18 August 2021 written by Lynn Spence. Nelson Mandela University is the main sponsor in the Citizens of the Year Awards 2021.

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