“Hasten slowly, and without losing heart. Put your work twenty times upon the anvil, polish it ceaselessly — and then polish it again.” — Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux

I have always believed that good quality work speaks for itself and that producing work of such quality requires relentless critique from self, friends and colleagues. Thus, I have always held a high standard for the work I undertake, be it in civil society or academia, because of its potential effect on people’s lives.



University of South Africa (Unisa), College of Law, department of public, constitutional and international law

Environmental activist and academic Siqhamo Yamkela Ntola, 34, is a senior lecturer at the University of South Africa (Unisa). He teaches environmental and international law.

His research is far-reaching and impactful. He focuses on the international law of the sea and the relationship African states have with this branch of law. Siqhamo participated in the ad-hoc open-ended working group to prepare for the intergovernmental negotiating committee to end plastic pollution as a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s plastic pollution task team.

He is also the co-founder of the African Ocean Governance Institute, a nonprofit company aimed at developing and disseminating expert insights on law and policy matters pertaining to Africa’s maritime domain. His professional trajectory is geared towards advancing Africa’s sustainable development.

Siqhamo was previously the water and environment portfolio manager for the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa). While working at Outa he exposed over-expenditure and under-delivery by the department of water and sanitation on its bucket eradication programme.

Siqhamo also successfully advocated for the prosecution of directors of Aurora Empowerment Systems for environmental damage from acid mine water in their Grootvlei gold mine. And he assisted with oral and written submissions for the South African Human Rights Commissions’ Inquiry Into the Sewage Problem in the Vaal River.

  • LLB, Nelson Mandela University (NMU)
  • LLM Public Law: Research, NMU
  • MPhil specialising in sustainable mineral resource development, University of Cape Town (completing)
  • LLD candidate, University of Pretoria.

  • Serving as the water and environment portfolio manager for the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and achieving the following: 
  • Successfully lobbying the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute the directors of Aurora Empowerment Systems for their failure to comply with the conditions of their water use licence, which resulted in pollution in its Grootvlei gold mine and neighbouring habitats 
  • Providing written and oral submissions to the South African Human Rights Commission’s Inquiry Into the Sewage Problem of the Vaal River 
  • Exposing significant over-expenditure and under-delivery with the department of water and sanitation’s bucket toilet eradication programme 
  • Championing the establishment of an independent water regulator as a measure to achieve policy certainty and attract investment into the water sector. 
  • Securing a contract to publish my monograph on the development of ocean governance (which will include environmental governance) in Africa since the coming into effect of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The book should be published next year.

I was about five years old when my mother passed her matric. As was, and is the case for many girls in our country, she had to postpone her schooling to attend to my immediate needs. The lesson for me has been two-fold. First, when circumstances are challenging, rather defer than quit. Second, finish what you start and don’t worry about how long it takes.

Read. Do so broadly and greedily.

I know how I would like South Africa to feel like, which is a country rooted in its values and unyielding in its disposition concerning them. I think among the symptoms of the latter will be higher levels of accountability for leaders in the public and private spheres of society, which will stem from higher leadership thresholds imposed by the populace. 

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

Subcribe to the newsletter