Meet: Simon Kgokong, clerical assistant at the University Rectorate.

Posted on July 03, 2020

“There are two things that define you as an individual: your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything,” says clerical assistant Simon Kgokong, who tells Tukkievaria about his career and his life as a single father.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Mmakau in North West, and was raised in a traditional community led by the late chief Bazabaza Motsepe. Growing up under a traditional leader taught me the importance of enhancing national identity and to resolve minor conflicts in the community to maintain peace.

What do you enjoy most about your job and why?

Clerical work involves a variety of tasks that keep changing throughout the day. I enjoy the work I do because I travel a lot and meet various high-profile people – much like my previous hotel job, where I met international tourists and government officials. My current job requires good communication, the ability to work individually and as part of a team, the ability to concentrate for long periods and to maintain attention to detail.

What is your least favourite part of the job?

I am not comfortable with having to deal with difficult personalities. As a clerical assistant, you are often seen as someone of lesser importance and are expected to clean up after everyone. Sometime I am expected to know everything, even if I was not included in meetings and private conversations.

       Do you have any suggestions for making UP an even better place to work?

There are some issues with top-down communication. As subordinates, we are siloed in our responsibilities and unable to contribute to the overall goals of the University. In certain instances, discussions are held with private financial creditors who charge high interests. But there was no direct communication from the University; instead unions tried to brief their members. This means that those who are not union members are left in the dark. We need a platform where we can be briefed directly and given the opportunity to ask direct questions for clarity. A lack of such opportunities sometimes leads to frustration and less motivation to perform.

What do you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career so far?

Being a single parent has somewhat dented my career aspirations. I lost my wife in a car accident seven years ago and it was difficult to accept the fact that she is gone forever. But I had to go through the five stages of grief: anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I have to soldier on, otherwise I will be dragged down and feel exhausted from the denial of this intense pain. There are two things that define you as an individual: your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.

What do you do in your free time?

As a single father, I cook for my daughter (15) and son (10), and visit family and friends. I also enjoy watching soccer.

Is there a piece of advice that you have received that you would like to share with colleagues?

Life is a horse: either you ride it or it rides you. You have to take charge and live a productive life of your choosing.  Your mental attitude determines who the rider is and who the horse is. Also, invest in your children – because nothing invested in a child is ever lost.


- Author Jimmy Masombuka

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