NRF Youth Month 2024: Sakiel Albert Monama

NRF Youth Month 2024: Sakiel Albert Monama

This year’s Youth Month is significant as the NRF celebrates 25 Years of Research, Innovation, Impact and Partnerships. These are the stories of the youth who have not only been impacted by the NRF but who also have an impact in their own spaces – and beyond! We thank all participants for sharing their stories with us.

Mr Sakiel Albert Monama recently graduated with a Master’s in Development Planning and Management from the University of Limpopo. He received funding from the NRF for his Master’s studies.

How did your journey start?

I grew up in a dusty village called Motantanyane situated in Zebediela, Limpopo – from a donkey cart to a Master’s of Development Planning and Management! I consider myself fortunate and privileged to have been awarded NRF funding while pursuing my Master’s at the University of Limpopo (2022 to 2023).

I come from a poor family background where I had no form of support for my studies in terms of finance, however, that did not stop me from furthering my studies and pursuing my dreams. Since childhood, I told myself that I wanted to be the first person in my family to go to university as no one in my household had been to university before. Indeed, that dream came true. I always motivated myself with the connotation that “as long as there is a human being who has what I desire, it means nothing is impossible”.

In 2018, I enrolled at the University of Limpopo for a Bachelor of Development in Planning and Management (BDev). The degree was conferred in 2020 with five distinctions. The following year, I embarked on my Honours degree and it was conferred in 2022 with a distinction. Then, in 2022, I enrolled for a Master’s and I completed it cum laude in 2023. Currently, I am hunting for a job.

I was one of the lucky students who was awarded the NRF bursary during my first-year Master’s which covered my full tuition fees, accommodation, study material, food and living allowance. The NRF bursary helped me to remain dedicated and focused on my studies, and I became a top student at that level. It was a relief to be awarded a bursary that catered for everything I needed to complete my studies. There was no way my family and I could have afforded to settle my fees.

With the help of the NRF bursary, I managed to publish three journal articles and a conference paper with the South African Association of Public Administration (SAAPAM). The paper was nominated as a best SAAPAM Conference paper during the 2023 September Conference under the theme: Rural Development and Urban Regeneration. I have eight manuscripts in the pipeline, all submitted to various journals for publication.

If it was not for NRF, I don’t think I would have been where and who I am. Indeed, I am truly grateful. The NRF deserves applause for its unconditional dedication to the citizens of South Africa. I wish the NRF more and more candles to blow in equipping students, academics, and scholars to pursue their careers.

How has your affiliation with the NRF impacted your studies/career?

NRF funding played a pivotal role in my academic journey, but also my life in general.

I grew up in an RDP house where I did not have a comfortable space to live in whenever I was home. I come from a family of ten children, and we are 12 with parents included. Interestingly, with the allowance I received from NRF, I was able to build and extend the RDP house, which is now comprised of ten bedrooms, three bathrooms, a sitting room, a dining room, a kitchen, and a double garage. I even managed to buy roofing for the house. This helped me and the family to have a better and more comfortable space to live in.

With the NRF allowance, I also managed to take care of my younger brother until he completed his matric in 2023. In addition, I also managed to cater for four students from my department to attend the conference of the Limpopo Research Forum 2024 at The Ranch Resort, Polokwane. We presented three research papers under the theme Advancing economic renewal through research: growing Limpopo together. These papers are all submitted to various journals and two are accepted for publication.

Through the gadget allowance I received from NRF in 2022, I managed to buy a new Lenovo Laptop. I was able to assist 26 matric learners during 2023 with academic and bursary applications in my village and surrounding communities.

Thus, NRF indeed not only impacted my life but also other people’s lives.

What is your research focus on/what is your area of expertise?

The title of my Master research project is The Effects Of Traditional Leadership On Spatial Distribution In Rural Areas: A case of Motantanyane Village, Limpopo Province.

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the effects of traditional leadership on spatial distribution in rural areas at Motantanyane Village. Despite the 29 years of democracy, local governments in South Africa, particularly those in rural areas, have endured challenges due to dualistic government, which has led to fragmented and distorted spatial distribution, impeding service provision and societal development. Some of these challenges arose because of the existence of traditional leadership institutions and their practices on spatial planning, distribution and management in rural areas. Local authorities have allocated land to its people in areas that are not habitable such as wetlands, flat plains and land designated as agricultural land. Traditional leaders have been criticised for using traditional spatial allocation systems such as the customary patrilineal approach that have been in place since the 1800s. As a result, the municipal and traditional systems often act autonomously, making it difficult for local governments to deliver basic services when land is given or leased without their consent.

The research findings revealed that traditional leadership is still a crucial form of government in rural areas, although it is founded on inefficiencies of spatial development affairs of rural areas. It has become evident that the independence of traditional leadership in spatial administration has created an insurmountable barrier to sustainable rural development. Local governments are unable to provide basic services such as water and electricity due to spatial fragmentation, which has hampered rural development. The poorly organised spatial settings make service delivery more expensive for municipalities, and the allocation of land in areas that are not habitable. In conclusion, due to the fragmented landscape, traditional leaders were a contributing factor to the underdevelopment and poor service delivery in rural areas.

Thus, the study recommended that local government and traditional leadership should collaborate in the administration of land to promote sustainable spatial development. Additionally, the local government should assign land experts who can collaborate closely with traditional leaders in rural communities. The cooperation between these two institutions must be guided by a single spatial distribution plan that will specify how the land in villages will be arranged.

My participation and engagement in this research or study enabled and equipped me with thorough knowledge of and understanding of governance and rural development with local sphere of government and traditional leadership. This has thoroughly improved my soft skills in terms of understanding research, methodologies, ability of community engagement, presentation, communication, as well as integrating legal frameworks anchored on rural development, and spatial governance.

Why is your work/studies important?

The holistic analysis of this study adds to the current understanding of the effects of traditional leadership on spatial distribution and management. In addition to practical implications, the study adds to the existing literature. The importance of traditional leadership in addressing societal problems in rural areas has been the subject of many research studies. This strengthened the uniqueness of the study as it focused on the effects of traditional leadership in land distribution in rural areas.

The study provides insight into rural land use and management, as well as whether traditional leadership structures still play a role and their significance in the democratic dispensation of South Africa. Thus, this contributes valuable knowledge to the discourse of planning and achieving rural development under chieftains.

Moreover, the study made recommendations for measures that can help local governments and traditional leaders build a harmonious relationship in terms of land use management and promote rural development.

What are some of your proudest academic achievements?

My special achievements are as follows:

  • Attained Master’s degree cum laude (79%)
  • Attained Honours degree with a distinction,
  • Attained Bachelor’s degree with five distinctions,
  • Nominee of the Best Reading & Writing Centre (RWC) Administrator,
  • Nominee of the Best SAPAAM Conference Paper under the Theme: Rural Development and Urban Regeneration,  
  • Nominee of the Top Student Performer under the Faculty of Management and Law, University of Limpopo,
  • Volunteer of Students’ Academic and Research Mentor, and
  • Nominee for Departmental Representation for Programme Review Meeting on the 26 – 28 September 2018.

I also managed to publish the following journal papers:

  • Monama, S.A. and Mokoele, N.J. (2023). The Efficacy of Traditional Leadership on Service Delivery Provision in Rural South Africa: A Case of Motantanyane Village, Limpopo Province. Journal of Public Administration, 58 (2).
  • Monama, S.A., Mokoele, N.J. and Mokgotho, K.D., 2022. South African Spatial Planning Fragmentation: Repealing The Apartheid Planning Imprint. International Journal of Entrepreneurship, 26, pp.1-11.
  • Mangweta, R., Mokoele, N. J., Monama, S. A. (2022). Building sustainable cities to address urban sprawl: a reflective analysis towards achieving SDGs. EUREKA: Social and Humanities, 6, 72–78. 5571.2022.002704
Related Posts