UKZN Medical alumnus, Dr Sazi Nzama, was elated when he heard that Cyril Ramaphosa, whom he fondly refers to as Baba Cyril, had been elected as the new State President. Nzama, a second year Medical intern at the Bloemfontein Academic Complex of Hospitals is one of many students who were able to achieve their dreams through funding from the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation (CRF).

‘I am excited and proud of Baba Cyril’s appointment as the next guardian of our country. I am also highly inspired by it, to continue to strive be great, to reach new heights and to be the best version of myself, every day. His appointment into the highest office in the country shows us, former and current bursary holders what hard work, diligence and commitment can achieve,’ said Nzama.

During his first three years at UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, Nzama struggled to obtain funding despite applying frantically for every bursary offered for the study of Medicine. In 2014, he was ecstatic to find out that the CRF would be awarding him a full bursary. ‘The bursary was and remains truly exceptional in my opinion. Not only did the foundation pay my yearly tuition, study material and residence fees; they catered to my holistic needs as a student and as a child. Tracking my academic progress and offering assistance wherever and however they could, engaging with me on a personal level to encourage me and monitor my psychosocial well-being and also allowing me the opportunity to interact with them face-to-face as well as with other bursary recipients on a biannual basis.’

Nzama recalled his first interaction with the newly-elected president, ‘I remember, one of the first encounters I had with Baba when he told us that we were investments. I was slightly befuddled by this concept until he expanded and explained that we (bursary recipients) are his investment in the future of South Africa.’

‘He is a father-figure not only to me but, I believe to all of us in the foundation (both alumni and current bursary recipients), a socially-conscious leader and a steward of this country’s future. Baba Cyril not only interacts with us when we see him, but he encourages us, pours out his wisdom and challenges us every chance he gets; to read, to acquire more knowledge and to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.’

Nzama also had the privilege of meeting First Lady, Dr Tshepo Motsepe-Ramaphosa who is also an alumnus of UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine. He recalled, ‘Our First Lady is an educated woman and her involvement with various organisations such as the African Self Help Trust shows that she is also a socially-conscious woman with a desire to make a difference. She will continue to be a shining beacon and I hope, an inspiration to young girls in our country.’

Nzama is the youngest of four siblings and grew up in Umlazi and then Queensburgh. As a child, he suffered from uncontrollable asthma and spent a lot of time in trauma units, resuscitation units and wards of the various state healthcare facilities in and around the greater Durban area. His experiences in several healthcare facilities inspired him to pursue a career in medicine. ‘As you can imagine, being unable to breathe is quite a painful and distressing experience. In my early teenage years, my now family Physician, Dr T Smith referred me to a Pulmonologist Dr I Abdullah who was able to finally control my condition.

My decision to become a doctor stems mainly from these experiences; remembering how painful it was to feel helpless in those moments and never wanting anyone else to feel or endure what I did with my childhood struggle with asthma.’

Speaking about his future plans, Nzama said, ‘The future has endless possibilities for me. It seems quite difficult to detail what exactly my future plans are however, I can give you a “sneak-peak” into what they may entail. A Masters in Business Administration, specialisation in Paediatrics and Paediatric Cardiology, a Bachelor of Laws and possibly National Minister of Health…As to when and how I will achieve all of this, I’m still young and I’ve got plenty of decades ahead of me.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis