Gqeberha Social Worker wins Top SA Public Servant Award

By Nande Fayo and Sibabalwe Nkebe


Always trying to go beyond the call of duty has seen Gqeberha social worker Vuyokazi Nkevu-Langbooi scooping a top public servant award for being recognized as the country’s best public servant for 2021 at a function held in Johannesburg on December 01, 2021. 

The award, won by Langbooi, is run every year by the Accountability Lab to recognise the work and integrity of people making a difference in public service. It aims to generate debate on integrity and importance of personal responsibility. Langbooi was one of the six South African nominees in diverse fields, including social development. 

Acting Head of Department Mr Mzimkhulu Machemba congratulated Langbooi.  “ I would like to congratulate Mrs Nkevu-Langbooi. Her winning is an indication of the fact that all is not lost in the public sector. There is trust that communities should have that our departmentwill protect and care for the most vulnerable in the society aand she has shown just that,” said Machemba.

She grabbed headlines in Gqeberha recently when she managed to reunite a 74-year-old man with his family, who had lost hope that he would ever be found alive. “I think he had Alzheimer’s or dementia, because the name he gave me the first time was wrong, but I’m very patient, so I was able to link some of the things he said and eventually found out what his real name is,” she explains. She says she searched on Facebook, messaging anyone she could find in Gqeberha who shared this surname. “The only person who responded said it was her uncle, and [that] they had long given up looking for him, they thought he had died.”

Laangbooi says the award means a lot to her. She says social workers have now been given an opportunity to be recognized for the great work that they are doing for communities.

​Although her official designation is that of social worker, Langbooi says she thinks of herself as an activist, and it’s clear to see from her dedication to her work that she goes above and beyond the call of duty. Throughout 2020, she worked without taking leave after the department set up Daku shelter for the homeless and assigned her as the co-ordinator .A foster child herself, Langbooi says she believes in the goodness of people because when she lost her mother, grandmother and her brother, who was a breadwinner at home, it was social workers who were there to help. “So, I felt called to do this work, seeing that people who care and are there to give hope exist. That’s what I gain from this work, the fulfillment, because this is my ministry.”
She also works with a local LGBTQIA+ organisation, Sibecise Social Inclusion, which seeks to teach kids how to deal with violence and share resources. 

Last year the award was won by Unathi Filita, a social worker based in Uitenhage.