I move courageously in the direction of my dreams, driven by a spirit of significance, to break barriers and limitations for more than just myself but for generations to come.

Mining & Manufacturing


Thungela Resources

Nsuku Nxumalo Chanakira, 28, is a principal hydrologist at Thungela Resources. She holds an MSc in water science, policy, and management from the University of Oxford. She also has a BSc honours in hydrogeology and a BSc in environmental and engineering geology from the University of Pretoria.

She has over five years of experience in environmental and water management gained in the development and mining sectors. Nsuku’s job entails leading the Thungela water management department by driving the effective implementation of Thungela’s water management strategy by providing technical advice to over 10 active and closed coal mining sites.

She also conducts research and stays up to date on water management, purification and treatment technologies with the aim of introducing new approaches and technologies to Thungela’s sites. In essence, her job is to solve water problems and develop innovative strategies to improve mine water management.

Nsuku is a proponent of responsible water management and youth empowerment. She is currently the national vice lead for Young Water Professionals South Africa. She has also previously served as a member of the Young Scientific Programme Committee for World Water Week in Sweden. Nsuku believes in the power of mentorship and is a mentor herself.

  • Masters in Water Science, Policy and Management – University of Oxford, UK (2019/2020)
  • BSc Honours in Hydrogeology – University of Pretoria, SA (2016) 
  • BSc in Engineering and Environmental Geology – University of Pretoria, SA (2013-2015); 
  • National Senior Certificate – Capricorn High School (2008-2012)

  • National Vice Lead, Young Water Professionals South Africa (2022 – present)
  • Chair, Scientific Programme Committee, Young Water Professionals Conference (2023) 
  • Young Scientific Programme Committee, World Water Week, Sweden, 2022 
  • Welfare Rep Worcester College, University of Oxford (2019/20) 
  • McKinsey Forward Programme – Advanced Level (2022)         Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust Scholarship (2019/20)         Chevening Scholarship (2019/20) 
  • Anglo-American Bursary (2013-2016) 
  • Mentor of the Year – University of Pretoria, Huis Erika (2014) 
  • Member of the Golden Key Honour Society

I grew up on the University of Limpopo campus because both my parents were lecturers there. I remember attending multiple graduation ceremonies with my parents to see their students graduate. One key memory I remember is my dad’s PhD graduation and just how radiant and happy he looked in his red gown. I had seen my dad work tirelessly towards this, so his graduation was the moment I associated hard work with achievement and celebration. Since then, I have worked tirelessly to achieve my goals.

I would advise my younger self to be kinder to herself and never dull her shine to make others comfortable. I would tell her that she was not too talkative, too nerdy or too confident. She was just what God intended, beautiful both inside and out. Lastly, I would tell her to not be afraid of failure, it is only a stepping stone to success.

In the year 2028, I want South Africa to have undergone significant reforms in the education, technology, employment and basic services spaces. I want it to be a place where entrepreneurs thrive and where innovation and technology are commonplace. I want youth to now worry about unemployment because the unemployment rate would have dropped significantly. I would like water, electricity and internet connection to be consistently available for all. I want South Africa’s education system to have taken great strides in incorporating innovation and digital acumen training into the syllabus. I want a political leadership that inspires the nation and truly puts people first. It may sound utopian but 5 years is enough to introduce key policy reforms and take the first steps to build the nation we desire, if not what I have described then at least some promising steps in this positive direction.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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