Day in the life – Army Aspirations: Joseph Mohoaduba
When I was growing up Mogogelo, a small village in Hammanskraal, South Africa, I wanted to be a doctor because there was no doctor or nurse at all in the village. Whenever there was an emergency we had to ferry people to the hospital. And remember, in the village it was all gravel road. People died being transported to Jubilee Hospital, which was about 20 kilometres away.
The odds were stacked against me. Up until today there’s no doctor who’s come out of there. Most of the people in my village are either policemen or teachers. I wanted to be different. I completed my matric in 1989, then I joined the army in 1990. In those days, black people were trained separately to white people. I was part of the first group of black guys who were sent to the Army Gymnasium in Heidelberg, which was reopened in 1993. Before it was only white people who could train in the gymnasium. It was a year’s course and after I finished my training I went back to my unit. I didn’t stay for long because we had the MK [Unkhonto we Sizwe, the paramilitary wing of the African National Congress] guys being integrated into the army. So basically all senior positions were now reserved for the MK guys only. And because of that a group of many aspirant officers decided to quit the army. And I was one of them. I had to leave because that basically meant that there was no future for us.
I then joined Independent Newspapers in 1994 as a driver. I enjoyed driving and within the first six months I did 50 front page stories with a journalist. Then the guy who was in charge of transport attempted suicide. He was hospitalised for six months, came back to work but died after another two or three months. Having acted as supervisor I applied for the permanent position and the job was given to me. Then when the guy who was in charge of the facilities in this building was due for retirement I was asked to apply for that job. I was like, “I have no formal training in senior management”, and they told me the business would make sure I get that training. That was in 1998. I’ve been the services manager since then, which basically means that I run the municipality in the building.
I think my contribution would be high
I like working with people, and I enjoy this job. But my biggest regret is that I didn’t stay in the army. I’m still angry with myself because I think I would have done very well in the army. Instead of using my brain to think, I actually used my heart. Because all those people who joined from MK were either fired or died after a few years. So those opportunities opened up again and I could have done very well. I could have been a minister of defence. I was willing to study, I was more than willing to go for it. If I get an opportunity to go back, I will. And with what I’ve learned in a private company and the discipline I’ve developed as a person, I think my contribution would be high.
This interview first appeared in the June 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine