Academically inclined Taxi Boss obtains his PhD at Fort Hare

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Growing up in Mount Coke near Qonce in the Eastern Cape, Dr Sakhumzi Stamper showed signs of being business-minded when he started lending money to his peers in primary school to earn interest. Coupled with this, he was also academically gifted, obtaining good results in Maths and Science.

This week during the UFH 2023 May Graduation, the 32-year-old, who owns taxis and lectures at Walter Sisulu University, formed part of the first cohort that graduated from the University of Fort Hare’s new qualification – a Doctoral Degree in Business Management offered by Faculty of Management and Commerce.

Dr Stamper holds an undergrad, honours in Human Resources and a masters degree in Business Management, all obtained at WSU.

Under the supervision of Prof Willie Chinyamurindi, Stamper titled his thesis: “An intellectual capital structural model in ICT-based small businesses: the role of organisational capabilities on business performance.” The study focuses at testing an intellectual capital-structural model and ascertaining the role of human and organisational capabilities on business performance in ICT-based small businesses in South Africa. The study used a quantitative approach, and it was conducted using the views of 261 owners/ managers of ICT-small businesses operating in South Africa.

It revealed that there is significant positive relationship between knowledge management capability and human capital. Additionally, he uncovered that innovation capability and business performance had a significant positive relationship and that intellectual capital mediates the relationship between learning capability and business performance.

As he shared his PhD journey, it became evident that his study somehow resonates with his life story - an intellectual who fused his business capabilities to excel.

Dr Stamper is the youngest of seven children raised by two grandmothers, one who was a cleaner and the other was a social grant recipient. To alleviate the financial burden, for pocket money he started his own informal money-lending business in primary school. By the time he got to high school, he had raised enough capital to stock up on sweets to sell.

“I used to lend my peers R1 and charged interest of 20%. I saved up the money and stocked up on sweets to sell to my mates when I got to high school.”

All this while, he brought home good school reports and passed his matric with flying colours.

With the assistance of a family friend, he was able to enrol at Walter Sisulu University to pursue his first degree, a Diploma in Human Resources. Although this was not his first choice, he excelled in the programme.

“I applied late and had to settle for the available course. Commerce was foreign to me, coming from Maths and Science, nonetheless, I gave it my all. He excelled to the extent that he graduated cum laude and went on to complete his B-Tech, Honours Degree and Masters Degree in the field of commerce.

To survive financially, throughout all his level of studies, Stamper ventured into several businesses and even took up part-time and full-time jobs.  “At some stage I sold airtime, I held down a part-time job at a local pharmaceutical, tutored junior students and worked as an Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) supervisor.”

He was dealt with two major blows, when his two grandmothers, who were his greatest supporters passed away in 2013 and 2017.

“These are the women who were there for me in every step of my academic journey and my endeavors to make ends meet. I was shattered by their deaths but became adamant to continue making them proud.”

While doing his Masters Degree, Stamper was offered a job as a part-time lecturer at Walter Sisulu University to lecture Advanced Strategic Management and Business Management 2.  

Using his tax returns and his part-time lecturer salary he bought his first taxi in 2018 and over the years extended his fleet to three taxis and runs the business with his wife, Aphiwe who he says has been his anchor in his PhD journey. “When Prof Willie returned my papers with red all over it, it was tough. My wife motivated me by reminding me why I started this journey – to make a name for a child raised by a cleaner and a social grant recipient.”

He was appointed permanent lecturer a few years ago.

Commenting on his PhD journey, he said: “I have never read so much in my life, and Prof Willie made me do it, simply because he wanted me to produce research that is impactful.  He wants the best even if it means submitting a thousand times and he is very strict with deadlines. Above all, in our journey as candidate and supervisor, he showed me ubuntu.”

Dr Stamper says he wants to dispel the misconception that people in the taxi industry are uneducated.

“I hope my story sends a message that taxi owners are also ambitious people with quests for educational advancement. In this industry, we have people with degrees and I am proud to say, I am a Taxi Boss who is an Academic Doctor.”