Change the world


In a great display of the dividends of hard work, dedication, resilience and an indisputable work ethic, veteran broadcaster and celebrated media personality, Noxolo Grootboom, showed Nelson Mandela University graduates just how far these fundamentals of professional life can take one.

Grootboom, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University on Monday (25 April 2022) in recognition of her invaluable work and contribution to journalism, media and communication, as well as her upliftment of the linguistic heritage of South Africa.

She was the second of three honorary doctorates to be awarded at the University’s autumn graduation season, following Dr Sindiso Mfenyana’s award on Wednesday (20 April 2022) and preceding the late Prof Pepeta’s on Friday (29 April 2022). Prof Pepeta’s honorary doctorate will be received by his wife, Dr Vuyo Pepeta, during the ceremony on that day.

Addressing the graduands after being capped by Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sibongile Muthwa, Dr Grootboom said one of the lessons she learned throughout her career was to work hard and realise that nobody owed her anything.

“Having come in as a starry-eyed 23-year-old and bowed out a fulfilled and content 60-year-old, over those years, I learnt that when opportunity meets hard work, a constant and not instant world of possibilities opens up,” she said.

Born in Cacadu (formerly Lady Frere) in the Eastern Cape, Dr Grootboom moved to Gauteng in 1981, where she took up a course in computers at a Johannesburg-based computer academy. Thereafter, she took up a position as a typist at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in 1983, seeing this as an opportunity to move into the media space albeit with no formal journalism background.

“As a young girl from the Eastern Cape, faced with the harsh realities of having to find employment in Johannesburg, when opportunities opened, I became my own slave driver,” she said.

“I had to find employment for not only my survival but also to feed my family. I told myself early on that good can never be better when best is possible. I would then use that mantra throughout my working life.”

She worked her way up to being appointed as a Production Assistant and received mentoring from fellow journalists. Her love of storytelling and her passion for the isiXhosa language landed her a position as a current affairs producer. 

A stand-in stint in the newsroom in 1990, reading a news bulletin, impressed the public broadcaster’s management and she subsequently became isiXhosa news anchor.

“Over those years, I have learnt a number of things, a few of which I would like to share with you,” she told graduands.

“I have learnt that when you invite experience to be your teacher, you are able to sit and reflect on all that you have learnt, as well as what you have missed; that when you reflect on your life’s experiences, this is willingness to grow, and it is called responsibility.

“What I have also learnt over the years in broadcasting is that no one owes you anything; and that to receive, means recognising that everything that comes your way is a reflection of what you deserve, the fruits of your sweat.”

With her unique sense of humour and her inimitable knack for the isiXhosa language, Ms Grootboom represents many things that Nelson Mandela University stands for, including the value of healing society from its brutal wounds, while preserving the intellectual heritage of isiXhosa for families across the nation.

“To say that being awarded this honorary degree is an honour would be a major understatement. [This honorary doctorate from an institution in] the province of my birth place, apho inkaba yam yombelwe khona, I am lost for words. This, of course, is quite ironic for someone who, for 37 years of broadcasting, used words for a living,” she said.

“I’m sincerely grateful.”

Dr Grootboom also lauded the University for its efforts in producing socially conscious leaders of integrity, encouraging its leadership to be intentional in building change agents for tomorrow.

“May the University go on to produce leaders that are honest and wise; who will lead without fear or favour, and who will not be afraid to take responsibility for their actions and boldly confess when they have erred,” she said.

“May you continue to instil values that will breed much needed leaders who recognise their contribution as a selfless service towards a higher purpose.”

Prof Muthwa said the University was honoured to be associated with Dr Grootboom, given the immense contribution that she and her counterparts had made to the country’s media landscape.

“Dr Grootboom and her colleagues have contributed to the importance of a media that is free of political and other influences of the time, and a media that is prepared to report with integrity and be the embodiment of truth,” she said.

“Dr Noxolo Grootboom is an embodiment of African excellence, and of a black person with the background that she had outlined. We are proud of the example she is setting for our students, that your past does not need to define your future.

The University’s association with Dr Grootboom was also celebrated at a dinner hosted by the Faculty of Humanities on Monday evening, where heads of the various schools and departments not only showcased their work, but the potential of the now established relationship with the media veteran.

The Executive Dean of the Faculty, Prof Pamela Maseko, said they were extremely honoured to have Dr Grootboom as one of their honorary doctoral recipients and looked forward to the projected fruits of this association.

“You would have heard from the Vice-Chancellor about the University’s efforts to revitalise the Humanities and the role that our Faculty plays in that regard. This award is therefore just the start of bigger things to come for the Faculty and University as a whole,” she said.

Prof Maseko outlined a number of areas the Faculty wished to enhance through collaborations with its honorary doctorates, including Dr Grootboom. These include language, culture and heritage and gender and women studies with a focus on women’s intellectual histories.

“We are really looking forward to building on this association and future collaborations, starting with Heritage Month that is celebrated in the country in September. We are pursuing having Dr Grootboom host masterclasses and fostering other forms of contact and relations with staff and students who will benefit from her knowledge.”

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777