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Against all Odds

South Africa’s first black geophysicist

From being Homeless for 2 years to becoming a Professor of Geophysics.

Meet – Prof. Musa Manzi, the first black South African to obtain a PhD in Geophysics.

He was born and raised in Ndwedwe, a rural village in KwaZulu-Natal. His father died when he was 2 years old.

He and his siblings were brought up by his single mother who worked as a house helper. Against all odds, at age 15, he matriculated with 100% in Mathematics. At age 16, he was accepted at the University of the Witwatersrand to pursue his tertiary studies.

At age 18, his mother and sister died a day apart leaving him to take care of his two orphan nieces. A month later his brother was shot and killed.

“Right after burials I took my nieces with me to Johannesburg, to continue my studies.

With no financial support, we lived on and off in my office and in the Wits library for about two years, which led to my being disciplined by the university. One day, a fellow student took me home for a meal.

Her parents, Ed and Rose Thomas, invited my nieces and I to stay with them, they became my parents and I’m forever grateful for their kindness, compassion, love and support,” he said.

With the support of Ed and Rose Thomas, Prof Manzi obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Maths, Physics and Computer Science, a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honours in Geophysics and a Master of Science (MSc) in Geophysics from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

In 2013, Prof Manzi graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Geophysics from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), becoming the first black South African ever to be bestowed the qualification.

In 2015, he became an Associate Professor at the Wits School of GeoSciences and Director of Seismic Research Centre.

Prof Manzi has been honoured with numerous local and global awards, including the Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth and Ocean Science from the American Geophysical Union and the Emerging Researcher Award at South Africa’s ‘Science Oscars’ (the NSTF-TW Kambule Award).

He is the founder of Dr Musa Manzi Foundation, which aims to discover and explore young talent in disadvantaged areas and achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives through education, inspiration, and empowerment.

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