School of Life Sciences

Microbiologist, Musician, Entrepreneur: No Limit to Final Year Student’s Dreams

Mr Lungelo Zuma, a final-year BSc student in Microbiology and Genetics, is making just some of his many dreams come true by cultivating a career as a musician, building an e-commerce site he believes could make life easier for students, and focusing on his studies with the aim of establishing a microbiology company.

Originally from Hammarsdale where he attended Phezulu High School, Zuma is the firstborn of four children. Losing his twin brother in infancy and his mother while in high school, while living in an unsafe area with two younger sisters looking up to him, fostered a strong sense of responsibility in the young dreamer. Given his curiosity about the world, particularly human anatomy and the pathogens affecting people, Zuma initially planned to pursue studies in medical sciences.

While his applications for medical schools were not successful, Zuma was accepted for studies in Engineering in Gauteng and Microbiology and Genetics at UKZN. He elected to enrol for the latter in order to be close to his family and because it related to his interest in Anatomy. Beginning his academic career in UKZN’s BSc4 Augmented programme, he began student life travelling between Hammarsdale and the Pietermaritzburg campus daily before moving to Pietermaritzburg, and said that leaving home was a necessary learning experience, teaching him independence.

The 21-year-old grew up in a family with gifted singers and developed an interest in music, and in 2018 taught himself to play the guitar using online tutorials. In the same year he entered the UKZN’s Got Talent competition and finished in second place. Performing under the stage name of Moja Lungsta, Zuma has played at poetry readings, weddings, birthday celebrations and more, developing his skills and experience in the RnB, pop and Afro-pop genres.

As a teenager, Zuma also began mulling over potential solutions to the lack of delivery services he witnessed in his area. While a student, he conceived of an e-commerce site that offers delivery services for groceries and essentials and in 2018 successfully raised R15 000 after approaching investors, bringing two shareholders on board to his site, which he registered as a business in late 2019.

Serving the Midlands area, the site allows customers to order from its own stocks with no delivery fee, or from established retailers via GrocerPTY for a fee. He offers special rates to students, and believes that this service could assist people as they return to campus after the lockdown and try to avoid busy public spaces.

Zuma recently hosted a virtual pre-launch for the site, and is rapidly adding products to the user-friendly interface. He employs two people to handle orders and deliveries, and works with a web developer who also studies at UKZN.

The entrepreneur dreams of expanding his business beyond KwaZulu-Natal, and hopes to one day use his academic training to open a microbiology company that will audit stores and businesses for hygiene, a need highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. He aims to create employment opportunities for graduates, and encourages other students to consider pursuing business, saying that academic training can be applied to a variety of areas.

Zuma said that meditating on what he wants to accomplish has been key to his success, and he has striven to achieve balance by being disciplined and by compartmentalising his life.

‘Muhammad Ali said that if you “add up all your traveling, all your sleeping, your school, your entertainment, you probably spent half your life doing nothing”,’ said Zuma, who believes in making the most of the time he has. ‘All of my dreams are Plan A, and I don’t limit myself to achieving in just one area.’

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod