The popular saying that alludes to everything happening for a reason is a present-day reality for Vukani Nqobani Ntombela, a 32-year-old University of Zululand (UNIZULU) Bachelor of Laws graduate who received his degree on Thursday, 16 May at the KwaDlangezwa Campus.
In his childhood, Ntombela, whose full title is His Royal Highness Prince Vukani Ntombela, had his mind set on becoming a civil engineer. However, being the first born son of the royal family of Danny Darlton, KwaZulu-Natal meant his career choice had to be aligned to the needs of the people he would one day serve. He therefore considered pursuing a career in law, a decision which was later intensified by the circumstances that soon after faced his family.
“After my father, who was the reigning chief at the time, passed away in 1999, my mother took over the reins. Because of her gender, she faced a lot of opposition from her male counterparts. I was more convinced then that I had to study law in order to try and solve the land battle my mother was being dragged into,” Prince Ntombela said.
The journey to qualifying to be a lawyer would prove to be a long and tough one. After registering for his first year at the University of Witwatersrand in 2006, Prince Ntombela had difficulty adjusting to an environment where English was the medium of communication. This had a direct impact on his studies, seeing him repeating his first year.
“I befriended some guys who came from black high schools like me and we formed a study group. This helped all of us to improve our marks. I passed my first year. When I was doing my second year though, problems at home worsened and my mother couldn’t afford to pay for my fees. In my third year, I eventually dropped out,” Prince Ntombela recalled.
Being back at home helped to alleviate the challenges the royal family was facing. Prince Ntombela was assisting his mother with performing her royal duties, acquiring leadership skills along the way. All the while, at the back of his mind, the longing to complete his law studies gnawed at him. In 2015, the young man applied to Wits, unknowingly to his mother and four siblings. Upon being accepted, his family, at the fear of spurring more conflicts in the land, pleaded with him not to study far away from home.
“I was forced to take another gap year in 2016. After being advised by a lot of my lawyer friends, I applied to UNIZULU. The following two years were tough but fulfilling. I had to do extra courses, having come from a different institution. While other students were doing five modules a semester, I was doing seven just so I could complete my studies within two years,” he said.
His fondest memory of his time at the university is the warmth of the UNIZULU community. He and his class mates had a WhatsApp group where they would share notes and discuss class work to ensure that every class member excelled in their academics.
Of his plans, Prince Ntombela, who was sworn into chieftaincy in November 2018, said he is dedicating 2019 to serving his people. From 2020 going forward, he will be practising law and performing his duties as a chief concurrently. Studying law has proven vital for his position as he is able to apply some of the knowledge he has learned at university to his day-to-day duties.
Though he has not yet tied the knot, he said marriage is in the pipeline as he is looking to bring up his two sons (8) in a warm home.
– Naledi Hlefane
A leader of note, Prince Vukani Ntombela graduated with a Bachelor of Laws on Thursday, 16 May 2019.