Hope is not all lost in ensuring ethical public service
By Nande Fayo
The ability to devote herself to honesty, integrity, and always striving in going above the call of duty in order to stand out above the rest – these are the qualities that have always defined the work ethic of Vuyokazi Nkevu-Langbooi.
The 39 year old Gqeberha-based Social Worker, has hoisted high the Department of Social Development flag by being recognised with an Integrity Icon South Africa Award, a global campaign by the Accountability Lab. This is result of her sterling work she has been doing for the community of Gqeberha.
The award, won last year by Unathi Filita, who is also a Social worker, 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 is one of the six South African nominees in diverse fields, including social development.
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.”
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. “It was a new challenge for me, I had never done that before, I had to appeal to community stakeholders to give what they could to keep the doors of the shelter open, and to make three meals a day for them. I built relations and got commitments from churches, organisations such as Ubuntu Pathways and Soul Food and others. Health workers volunteered their time and we built relations with the local police, because some of the sheltered individuals had been involved in gangsterism, so it became a potentially dangerous situation.”she says.
She says out of 55 homeless people admitted to Daku shelter during the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, 44 of those were re-united with their families
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.
One of Langbooi’s colleagues, Brenda Buwa describes her as one of the most dedicated public servants she has ever worked with. She says Langbooi overstretches herself in assisting those in need. Msizi says she is delighted by the Accountability Lab initiative of “naming and faming” honest and dedicated civil servants.
The Integrity Icon Award ceremony will be held in Johannesburg on December 01, 2021.To vote for her, visit the Department of Soci