Witnessing various challenges that employees encounter within the workplace sparked Ms Ntombifikile Zulu’s interest in studying industrial relations.

Zulu, who hails from the village of Samungu Reserve in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal, is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa who began her journey in the legal field by obtaining a Bachelor of Laws degree in 2014 and a Master of Laws in Business Law (Advance Insolvency; Advance Corporate Law and Consumer Law) in 2019 from UKZN. She has now passed a Postgraduate Diploma in Industrial Relations with distinction at UKZN. Her passion for industrial relations also led her to publish two articles about labour law in the legal journal, De Rebus.

On achieving outstanding results, she said: ‘I am ecstatic because I survived the extraordinary circumstances in which our country finds itself as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated a change in traditional teaching and learning. Obtaining this qualification with distinction means a lot to me because it affirms that if you work hard enough, your dreams will come true.’

As a quality assurance adjudicator at the Community Schemes Ombuds, Zulu is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of adjudication orders. She said that her new qualification helped to sharpen her conflict resolution, critical thinking, and conflict management skills. ‘The course also trained us to draft rulings and arbitration awards. It is less challenging for me to ensure the quality of the orders now that I have been on the other side of the table,’ she said.

While the Postgraduate Diploma offered by the Centre for Extended Legal Studies at UKZN was delivered online and after hours, Zulu admits that juggling work, studies and family was challenging. She said: ‘It hasn’t been easy, especially for my five-year-old son, Tshilidzi, who didn’t understand why I was locking myself in the study because my classes were in the evenings; at times, I would let him in and give him colouring books to keep him occupied.’

Zulu is grateful to the lecturers at UKZN’s School of Law who shared their extensive practical knowledge during the sessions. She also thanked her family and friends for their support and encouragement.

She will focus on building her career while contemplating her return to pursue doctoral studies in Law in the near future.

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Abhi Indarajan