Former taxi conductor turned lecturer graduates as doctor at DUT Autumn Graduation ceremony

Many people knew Dr Simiso Mabaso from the time he was a taxi conductor at Umlazi Picture: Supplied

Many people knew Dr Simiso Mabaso from the time he was a taxi conductor at Umlazi Picture: Supplied

Published May 15, 2024


Dr Simiso Mabaso is living proof that your past does not determine your future. His is one of many stories of overcoming the odds and pushing beyond boundaries.

The former taxi operator-turned-lecturer this week obtained his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Management Sciences specialising in Hospitality and Tourism at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) 2024 Autumn Graduation ceremony.

Hailing from the KwaZulu-Natal town of Bergville, Mabaso's DUT journey commenced in 2001 after he had saved sufficient funds to cover his registration fee. Prior to joining DUT, he had worked as a taxi conductor in Umlazi for two years.

Speaking of his experience, he recalled matriculating in 1998 and travelling to Durban to look for space at university.

"I was accepted at DUT but I did not have the registration money. Not wanting to go back home empty handed, I decided to look for a job. One of my friend’s uncle who was a taxi owner under Umlazi M and R sections, hired me as a taxi conductor. It was my only hope of earning a living and sending money back home,” shared Dr Mabaso," he said.

While studying at DUT, Mabaso continued working as a taxi conductor on weekends and holidays to help fun him during studies.

He then enrolled for a National Certificate in Tour Guiding. In 2002, he continued with a National Diploma in Tourism Management.

In 2010, Mabaso completed a Master's Degree in Tourism and Hospitality. His PhD journey began in 2021 under the supervision of DUT’s Professor D Hlengwa.

The title of his thesis was: ‘A framework to facilitate social entrepreneurship as a tool for sustainable tourism economies in Bergville – Okhahlamba Municipality’.

Explaining his thesis, Mabaso said the study investigated the role of social entrepreneurship in contributing to sustainable tourism economies within the Bergville-Okhahlamba Municipality.

"Social Entrepreneurship (SE) prioritises societal impact over financial gain, endeavouring to effect systemic change by rallying communal resources to combat social injustices. SE has gained global traction in the tourism sector, aligning with evolving global objectives and stakeholder demands for businesses to fulfil social responsibilities. Specifically, Tourism Social Entrepreneurship (TSE) has garnered recognition for its capacity to safeguard indigenous cultures, promote environmental sustainability, and enhance rural livelihoods," Mabaso explained.

He said he was ecstatic to have finally completed his PhD studies. He stated that being familiar with the DUT academic environment played a huge role in motivating him to put more effort and focus on his research.

"I am passionate about teaching and having the opportunity to work while developing myself academically, was the greatest decision. This qualification means a lot to me. The journey was not easy but very worth it. My supervisor Professor Hlengwa was there to guide and encourage me every step of the way," Mabaso said.

Commenting on some of the challenges he encountered during his PhD, Mabaso said research requires a lot of travelling to collect data and more.

"Unfortunately, I tried to apply for funding and was unsuccessful to obtain any. It was such a tough journey, yet I am very excited and grateful to have managed to complete my studies in record time," he added.

His future goal is to continue with his career in academia by conducting extensive research and publishing papers. He also has a strong interest in teaching first-year students because he believes that is where a solid foundation is laid.

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