From Beggar to Postgraduate: This is Lwazi's incredible story!

Meet Lwazi… a determined young man who went from begging on the streets to getting his degree!


Johannesburg, South Africa – “I have a name” is an incredible photo series showcasing everyday South Africans most phenomenally. Proudly South African… one story at a time.

The stories are told by the incredible South Africans… raw & unedited. It’s a showcase of humanness, a reminder that behind every face, is a name.

Meet Lwazi… a determined young man who went from begging to getting his degree!

Sometimes it just takes 1 person… 1 person to stop… 1 person to take notice… 1 person to make someone’s dream come true. Talita was such a person for Lwazi. Instead of driving past him standing there on the road with his sign, she and her husband Hanno decided to stop and engage with him.

The story was sent to “I have a name” who posted about it on the 9 February 2018 and just a year later Lwazi has gone from begging to completing his Postgraduate Diploma in Chemical Engineering!!!

Lwazi is a Zimbabwean, initially raised in Harare where he completed his O and A levels. His parents have not worked in several years as they cannot find employment, but the determined student took on the task of working while studying Chemical Engineering at the Harare Institute of Technology – a 4-year course.

“While studying, I also worked as a hawker buying and selling clothes and small electronics and travelling between Zimbabwe and Botswana. Because I couldn’t focus all my attention on my studies, I completed my degree in 5 years instead of 4.”

In 2014, Lwazi graduated, but there were no jobs in Zimbabwe; especially not in the field of chemical engineering.

“I found a job working for a farmer. I was put in charge of slaughtering 21,000 chickens/day. I would oversee the process in the abattoir and make sure all the right systems were in place for them to be delivered to the market. After a year I reassessed and knew that I was wasting my hard earned degree. I really wanted to find a job in the field that I had studied. 

I had saved up some money and spent it applying for a UK visa. I thought that if I could move to the UK, I could make something of myself.” 

Sadly his Visa was denied.

Lwazi knew that there were a lot of job opportunities in his field in South Africa, and moved here in July 2017. He applied for different jobs, but because he is not South African, he couldn’t get a position anywhere.

“I decided to approach the universities to ask them for advice. I visited Wits and was able to speak to Professor Jean Mulopo who was very kind and spent time discussing my situation with me. 

Mr Mulopo suggested that the best option for me would be to specialise in Petroleum and to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Chemical Engineering Oil and Gas at Wits. I would need to get my degree evaluated through SAQA first though.” 

Lwazi didn’t have the money to do this, so he found a job handing out leaflets at the robots earning R80 per day. He worked tirelessly until he had saved up the R1100 needed to submit the documents.

“I kept in touch with Wits and was accepted into the Postgraduate program for 2018. My next hurdle was the 75% of the year’s fees which had to be paid before lectures started. The amount seemed like an Everest to me. I had to raise R55,000 upfront.” 

The determined young man sucked up his dignity, made himself a sign, photocopied his qualifications and started standing at the robots in Fourways asking people for help.

“Standing at the robots was a last-ditch effort. It is not something I enjoy, I would much rather be working. There were people that helped though, and I started slowly climbing my Everest.” 

By January he had managed to get together the amount needed, and he enrolled and got his student card from Wits. A year later and he has completed his Postgraduate Diploma in Chemical Engineering!!!

“I would like to thank everybody who helped me last year. So many different people helped; Indians, Chinese, White, Africans… all different races coming together to help me. Basically, I can thank the whole world as people are inter-linked somewhere, somehow, because of the mere fact that every nationality was represented by all people I met at the robots and also specifically the small community that directly helped me. 

All I have to say is I love them all and feel like I owe the world something. I also want to thank people who helped me (day in ~ day out) with words of encouragement -motivation, love and care.”

Lwazi is now pursuing his Masters and studying part-time while looking for a job in the Petroleum or Chemical industry, but his story has inspired a nation.

It is like Barack Obama said: “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope; you will fill yourself with hope.” 

To follow his story, visit the “I have a name” Facebook Page.

Sources: Facebook – I have a name 
I Have A Name” is a space where an anonymous photographer (we’ll call her J) is taking photos of everyday South Africans to showcase their incredible stories.
How do we bridge the great South African divides? Black vs white, young vs old, rich vs poor, men vs women? The divides that keep us from making eye contact with the beggar standing on the street corner, or the stranger in the lift.
CS Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit-immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
Come with me on a journey…the stories and names behind the faces of everyday South Africans living their life in your neighbourhood, on your streets.
I think you will discover that we have a lot in common.
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Click the link below to listen to the Good Things Guy Podcast, with Brent Lindeque – South Africa’s very own Good Things Guy. He’s on a mission to change what the world pays attention to, and he truly believes that there’s good news all around us. In the Good Things Guy podcast, you’ll meet these everyday heroes & hear their incredible stories:

Or watch an episode of Good Things TV below, a show created to offer South Africans balance in a world with what feels like constant bad news. We’re here to remind you that there are still so many good things happening in South Africa & we’ll hopefully leave you feeling a little more proudly South African.

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Brent Lindeque
About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and man in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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