By: Kopano Lekhoathi
While most university students aim to obtain their respective qualifications in record time, there are some who are able to start working towards their end goals while studying. Most of these students with such capabilities tend to do this by being involved in as many student programmes as possible.
Sivuyile Mphateni, final year law student at the University of the Free State (UFS) initially wanted to study drama and be an actor. This changed in high school where he was a member of the public speaking and debating societies and acquired a passion for the law. The Bisho Legislature public speaking competition where he was placed second fueled conversations with his parents that led him to enrolling for his law degree in 2016.
“It all started last year in 2019 when I submitted my research proposal which I got a distinction for”, said Mphateni on the journey to his thesis. His focus lies on conducting a comparative study in Labour Law between The State of California, The United Kingdom and South Africa. He says, “I will be looking specifically into LGBTQIAP+ employees in the workplace”. This study will be examining the different laws that offer protection for this minority group, or the lack of protection thereof. Mphateni further mentioned that he would be looking across many jurisdictions and what they are doing and where South Africa is lacking. What inspired this topic of research was a discussion he panelled that was centred around the visibility of LGBTQIAP+ members in the workplace alongside the now retired Constitutional Judge, Justice Edwin Cameron.
“We were speaking about the visibility of our community in the workplace and how we are not represented in the entire work form spectrum”, Mphateni said. He added, “We don’t have representation, we were debating why this is the case”. Mphateni said that the reason for this could possibly be that people may be afraid of owning up to their identities in fears of facing alienation in the workplace, being demoted, or potentially fired because of their innate sexuality.
“Being gay and understanding the struggles that we go through on a daily basis, people looking down on us, being dismissed at work or not being hired because you’re transgender, gay, or ‘too extra’; I’ve always wanted to advocate against that. To say that this is wrong. We are also human at the end of the day,” Mphateni explained.
Recently, Mphateni has been offered what he describes as his defining moment as a student at UFS; a publishing deal for his legal thesis as a book. “I will still own the copyrights and will get a return on sales. I see this as a unique opportunity. I didn’t expect this,” he said. To elaborate further on his thesis, he will be examining dismissals, sexual harassment promotions, demotions and bullying in the workplace for LGBTQIAP+ members and what he wants readers to take away from his research is that there is legal recourse for any acts of discrimination in the work force. “People should no longer feel scared to speak up against discrimination”, Mphateni said confidently.
On his next big thing, he said “Life has taught me that God has a way of charting a journey or path for you that you yourself never thought possible, so I don’t know what will happen. I do know that God has a plan for me, and it is big, and it is going to be impactful.” ” I want my work to be impactful, to change lives. I want to leave a legacy,” Mphateni concluded