Twin geologists hope to be beacons of inspiration – ‘You have to believe what you want is possible’

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Mabusha Nyelisani and Makobo Simelane hope to inspire more women to pursue careers in geology.
Mabusha Nyelisani and Makobo Simelane hope to inspire more women to pursue careers in geology.
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All dreams that become reality must start from somewhere, and twin geologists Makobo Simelane and Mabusha Nyelisani have fought tooth and nail to get to where they are.

In an industry like mining where women only make up about 14 percent of the workforce in South Africa, witnessing young Black women like Makoba and Mabusha become esteemed leaders at Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore mining plant is a true inspiration.

Growing up in Botlokwa, Limpopo, the 34-year-old twin sisters went from playing traditional games like diketo and maskitlana – indigenous childhood games that are played using pebbles – to rising through the ranks at Kumba Iron Ore.

Makobo and Mabusha have taken on the roles of business execution plan specialist and production geologist, respectively.

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From humble beginnings to being spotlighted by Forbes Africa in 2022, Makobo and Mabusha spoke to TRUELOVE about their journey as they pursue their careers in geology and where their love for rocks began.

“We were always fascinated by the sparks the rocks (quartz) created when they hit each [other]. The different types and shapes of the rocks and how they break was also interesting for us. This amongst other things always made us curious to know how the rocks form and why they are different,” the twins explain.

The road to geology hadn’t always been smooth for Makobo and Mabusha. In their Forbes Africa spotlight, the geologists explain the personal and financial difficulties that almost hindered them from completing their studies.

“We were doing our first year – our last semester as first-year students, already talking about second year with our friends when my sister and I discovered that our parents had been struggling to pay for our fees. I remember looking at the statement thinking, ‘is this really happening to us?’,” Mabusha explains.

The twins worked tirelessly to get funding towards their Bachelor of Science and Honours degrees in Geology at the University of Witswatersrand after taking mathematics, physical science, geography and biology in high school.

They also educated themselves in the world of business, completing their Masters in Business Administration with Regent Business School after completing a project management and data analysis course through the University of Cape Town’s Get Smarter programme.

Through their hardships, Makobo and Mabusha excelled, and they hope their story will reach the eyes of young girls who believe their goals aren’t within their reach.

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Makobo and Mabusha explain how important it is to be intentional with your goals and the actions you take to achieve them.

“The first most important thing is to learn … you must not wait for the world to validate you and your dreams. The second thing is perseverance and consistency, you have to persevere and be consistent. Perseverance will take you where talent will not take you. I believe the only thing that stops a person to go further in life is themselves. You have to believe that what you want is possible,” they advise.

Speaking on what they hope to achieve through their leadership positions at Kumba Iron Ore, Makobo and Mabusha describe themselves as transformational leaders.

When explaining her leadership style, Makobo says, “I always focus on what good looks like and I take the people I work with along to achieve.”

Mabusha echoes her sentiment by explaining, “I still believe we need to have the right conversations as well as strategic actions to push women representation. This can be done through career succession planning as well as mentorship programmes [where] women are afforded opportunities.”

Makobo and Mabusha continue to be passionate advocates for inclusivity and diversity in the mining sector and encourage young women to pursue careers in science and to build a greater appreciation for the natural world.

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