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A day in the life: Katlego Letlonkane
Author: Corporate Communications and Marketing
Published: 08/05/2023

​​As a labour lawyer, social scientist, and former consultant in human resources (HR) transformation, Katlego Letlonkane has assisted many organisations with driving change, particularly people- and culture-related change. Beyond her role at Stellenbosch University (SU) as Programme Manager: Capacity Development at HR, Letlonkane is also a popular radio presenter of SiyakhulaLive on MFM92.6, a show that connects with SU staff and students.  As we kicked off May commemorating Workers’ Day, we dedicate this series of articles to our staff and their important contribution to the University. In the interview below, Letlonkane tells us more about her work.

What does your role at SU entail? 

My role is situated in the Employment Equity and the Promotion of Diversity Department in HR and it’s rather multi-faceted, as it extends into SU’s Transformation Office. I manage the Siyakhula Diversity Capacity Development Programme, which is co-owned by HR and the Transformation Office. Siyakhula, as it’s popularly known, aims to promote diversity and employment equity at SU by creating opportunities for staff engagement on matters that are at the heart of our humanity. 

Our histories, cultures, beliefs, practices, languages, expressions, identities, knowledges, and values are important to us as human beings, which is why we constantly have to reflect on ways to create inclusive working environments embedded in a culture of listening, reflexivity, dialogue, and compassion. This role is complex, but I try to always start simple – it works every time! I focus on the shared humanity we all enjoy, our values as people and an institution, and our inalienable human dignity and equality. 

What does a typical day at work look like? 

It starts and ends with a cup of tea! Also, emails, chats, and laughs with colleagues (I work with really funny and interesting people!) I organise, facilitate, present and participate in a range of engagements, workshops, and events across many environments at SU. 

Our Siyakhula staff workshops are kicking off on 25 May. I am really excited to have more in-person engagements this year – the programme lives up to the kind of campus SU envisions itself to be. I am looking forward to deepening our connections and learning more about colleagues during these two-hour sessions on diverse aspects of our humanity. 

I also host a pretty cool radio show on Wednesday evenings at 6 pm called SiyakhulaLive on MFM92.6. It’s an award-winning show that has become a significant part of Siyakhula. Through the show we are able to connect with staff, students and the SU community in creating meaningful dialogue, changing perspectives and mobilising commitment to social justice. Many staff members have come on the show and have contributed insight and thinking for a changing society that celebrates human diversity. This work is held up by a humbling grace and I am very thankful I get to touch and be touched by people’s lives in this way. 

I wrap up my days with a workout session every day – I love yoga, I enjoy tennis very much and never miss the step classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays

How did your education or past experiences prepare you for this role?  

I am a lawyer, so thinking about justice has always been part of my practice. I practiced as a labour lawyer for several years and then worked in People Advisory as a consultant. 
These roles significantly shape how I approach work, but I am first and foremost my grandmother’s child and that is perhaps the biggest influence on who I am as a person. 
At home, and in my community, our order is that of botho (ubuntu). This is the place from which I derive my ideas, approaches, and interactions with others. I have always sought to use my gifts in service of the well-being of the community. I consider my time here at SU as a service to this community, and I am happy to serve.    
What do you enjoy most about your role and working at SU? 

I could say a lot about what my time here has meant for me at a personal level. I am from Joburg, so moving here has pushed me to grow in quite an intimate way. Being away from my usual environment came with vulnerabilities, questions, and reflections. I had no choice but to embrace the change that started to unfold in my life. It is quite poetic that the programme I lead here is called Siyakhula, which means “we are growing”. It sums up my journey at SU so far. Growing indeed!

Tell us something exciting or interesting about yourself that few people would expect?

I have this dream of one day playing a cool character in a big animation production. I would love to give voice to something like that, so if anyone knows someone at Disney … I’m over here and I’m quite good!  ​