“There is no substitute for hard work.”

Mduduzi Ntongana


Civil Society

Organisation / Company



Mduduzi Ntongana, 26, has always been involved in social development projects, and as the programme officer in basic services at Afesis, he works on projects that aim to improve the living conditions in informal settlements. A big part of his job is to look at sustainable human development, social justice and community development. He does this through policy shaping initiatives, working with government officials and NGOs, commenting on legislation, taking part in national and provincial human settlements discussions and advocating for issues through the media. Mduduzi was involved in the re-blocking pilot project for the electrification of informal settlements in Buffalo City metropolitan municipality, which he says was taught him the importance of community involvement and collaboration with government entities. Thanks to this project, Mduduzi was awarded second place in the SACPLAN Top Young Professional Planners for 2023. He is currently working on a number of projects, including developing sustainable livelihood plans for 19 informal settlements in Chris Hani district municipality, a heat-mapping campaign in Buffalo City metro and Project Vote SA to enhance the participation of young people.


Professional Planner, South African Council of Planners, 2024
YALI-RLC SA Online Programme, UNISA and USAID, Online Cohort 20, 2024 – current
2nd place in SACPLAN Top 30 Young Professional Planners 2023
DGMT Innovation Fellowship, DGMT
McKinsey Forward Programme, McKinsey & Company,
BSc Honours in Urban and Regional Planning, University of Witwatersrand,
BSc Degree in Urban and Regional Planning, University of Witwatersrand


One of my projects is coordinating the Re-blocking Pilot Project for the Electrification of Informal Settlements in Buffalo City metropolitan municipality. This project aims to reshape dense informal settlements to facilitate the provision of basic services. The initiative is groundbreaking for the municipality, as it will not only provide prepaid electricity to residents but also will lay the foundation for the long-term incremental upgrading of the settlement.

This project taught me the importance of community engagement and collaboration. By involving residents in the planning and implementation phases, we ensured that the solutions were designed to meet their needs and are sustainable in the long run. It also highlighted the value of partnerships with the government, demonstrating that complex urban challenges require coordinated efforts across various departments. The project has faced numerous challenges, however through persistent engagement and flexible problem-solving approaches, we were able to overcome these obstacles.

Overall, this project reinforced my belief in the power of inclusive urban planning and the potential for innovative approaches to drive meaningful change in underserved communities. 
In recognition of my efforts in the field of town planning, I was awarded second place in the SACPLAN Top Young Professional Planners for 2023, which is rare for a town planner in the civil society sector.


I have several mentors who have significantly influenced my journey. Nontando Ngamlana whose dedication to social justice and community development has been a guiding light in my career. Ronald Eglin, his expertise in sustainable human settlements and commitment to innovative solutions have inspired my approach to tackling urban challenges and Qhamani Tshazi, a friend and mentor whose unwavering belief in me has strengthened my ability to connect with and empower marginalised communities.