Yolanda Guma Residence (formerly Oceana)

Youth leader, academic, student activist
Birthplace: Kwazulu-Natal

She made a difference in the lives of ordinary South Africans.

Yolanda Guma was destined to lead an extraordinary life.

Her commitment to uplifting fellow students, powerful management skills and determination to succeed underpin her hero status among those who knew and admired her.

One of four children, Guma was born in Empangeni and emerged as a natural all-rounder at Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School, where she was chosen as a prefect, excelled on the sports field and matriculated with exemption.

Her resolve to use education as a tool for both personal and community upliftment bore fruit in 2005, when she enrolled for a Bachelor of Administration degree at the then Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

Student in action

Guma joined the South African Students’ Congress (SASCO) during her first year, and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming branch deputy secretary and then regional treasurer.

Her interest in student activism expanded to membership of the ANC Youth League, Black Management Forum and the South African Public Management Student Association.

Unsurprisingly, Guma was elected to serve on the Student Representative Council (SRC), in consecutive years, as treasurer-general, deputy secretary general and secretary general, and later as treasurer general of the South African Union of Students (SAUS) and the National Executive Committee of SASCO.

Those who worked with her – both staff and students – described Guma as a true leader of her generation, playing an important role in shaping policies at NMU.

A beacon of hope for students during her term as SRC secretary general, she drove the engine room of the organisation, ensuring that it produced strategic ideas to disrupt and improve the status quo.

Rising star

After graduating, Guma continued to thrive at her alma mater.

She accepted a position as Community Based Training Planner at the university’s Raymond Mhlaba Institute and gained valuable experience there for her next career move – personal assistant to the provincial secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) in Kwazulu-Natal.

But, the Eastern Cape was calling her home. Headhunted by the ANC Eastern Cape provincial office, Guma became personal assistant to the ANC provincial secretary; and, despite this demanding role, was drawn back to her student activism days and commitment to further education.

She enrolled at NMMU for an Honours degree in Public Administration and Management in 2014, committing her life – and career – to serving others in the public sphere.

While studying, she remained in her personal assistant post and was due to graduate in May, 2015.

However, in January of that year, Guma died unexpectedly.

Living legacy

Oceana Residence students unequivocally chose to rename their residence in honour of Guma, who lived there for the duration of her undergraduate degree.

The building will bear the name of one of its most beloved daughters – a fitting memorial to a young life well-lived.