For Abongile, determination is the key to success

Gamtoos Irrigation Board takes huge pleasure in creating success stories among eager employees who make the most of the opportunities offered to them. One such success story is 26-year old Abongile Vumazonke, who advanced from general worker to quality controller in one year thanks to her eagerness to learn, her positive attitude and her strong work ethic.

Abongile was born in Hankey, the eldest of three children. When her mother found work as a security guard at the magistrate’s court in Joubertina, her family moved to the Langkloof Valley, and within a few years, Abongile began working as a general worker for a local contractor.  Luckily for Abongile, this contractor was involved in the Working for Water programme.

‘I was so happy when my employer sent me for training to learn about herbicides and irrigation. I also learnt about cutting trees at ankle height, and about first aid and health and safety. This training gave me a foundation and the confidence that I could go further.’

In 2019, Abongile spotted a Gamtoos Irrigation Board advertisement seeking four project manager assistants to help with eradication of alien species. Taking a chance, she applied.

‘I got the job! I think it was because of my previous experience in the field. The increase in salary meant that I could support my great grandmother and family who still live in Hankey.’

Abongile was appointed to Working for Wetlands, which is physically demanding work. Every day she visits sites where contractors are removing alien species, making sure that herbicide mixtures are correct, alien trees are felled correctly and that health and safety protocols are implemented. First aid kits are replenished and all vehicles are checked daily.

Abongile knows that the work she does makes a huge difference to water availability, as she has seen the effects first hand.

‘In the rivers and gorges where we have removed the aliens, the water is flowing more smoothly and it is clean, especially in the Dieprivier. We have to do it continually because they grow back.

‘But it makes a difference. I really believe that locals and government need to work together so that affected areas can be cleaned of alien invasive plants like the black wattles, which consume a lot of water. This makes the water available for consumption.’

Working for Water and Working for Wetlands are both poverty-upliftment projects of the Department of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. Jonathan Snyders, the project manager whom Abongile assists, explains that Working for Wetlands made R32 million available for drought relief, mostly to provide work for people who had lost jobs owing to the drought.

‘We started to implement the budget in the catchment area of the Mpofu Dam, which is in the Dieprivier.

‘One of the tasks of the project managers is to walk the boundaries of project compartments with contractors to indicate the scope of their work. This is time-consuming work, and Edwill Moore, our Area Manager, decided that extra help was needed. Four project manager assistants were appointed, and Abongile was one of them.’

Her initial task was temporary, but Abongile’s performance soon changed that.

‘Abongile is reliable and her basic skills are top notch, especially her administrative skills and her firm dealings with the contractors. That’s why, when the drought-relief project was concluded, we asked her to remain in the role of quality controller for the wetlands project.

‘She understands the work, she knows how it must be implemented, and she has proved herself again and again.’

A success story indeed – and one that Gamtoos Irrigation Board would like to replicate as we strive to provide an excellent service and uplift our community in as many ways as we can.