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South African woman strives to improve herself, world around her

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Mpumi Nobiva has the most unusual story and yet, “I have a feeling that this is the natural way that it should happen,” she says.

Mpumi is from Johannesburg, South Africa.  Her father left her life, early, and when she was 9, her mother told her she was dying and then:

“She told me I would be different.  She made me promise to always be good to my grandmother and never stop working hard in school and never stop believing in God,” says Mpumi.  “And, for me, that moment was part of why I've made it this far because she spoke life into such a lifeless circumstance.”

The “life” her mother spoke in those circumstances were a few simple – though not necessarily easy – rules she had to follow, including being good to the grandmother that would now raise her, work hard in school and never stop believing in God.

“In my 9-year-old mind, my 10-year-old mind, my 11-year-old mind,” says Mpumi, “it made sense that if I don't hold true to those promises, I'm going to end up exactly like my mother.”


Mpumi became a star student and when a very famous American came to her country, everything changed.

She eventually got to know another very influential American, Bob Brown, from High Point.  Brown had served several US presidents and created a consulting business that is known, worldwide.  Brown – who was close to both Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr – saw a similar potential in Mpumi.

“She has that never-say-die attitude and that's the kind of thing that will propel you ahead - even ahead of other bright people because many bright people don't have that kind of ambition,” says Brown of Mpumi.  “In ten or twenty years, I see her as one of the real comers and one of the top leaders in South Africa and on the continent of Africa.  She has those kinds of smarts.”

And, although she graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte and is working on her master’s degree at High Point University, Mpumi sees her future back in Africa because she feels as if she is part of something larger than herself.

“This journey is not mine and it's not mine alone, it's much bigger,” she says.  “We are more than our circumstances.  That's the moral of the story.”

Meet Mpumi – and see who that famous American was who changed her life – in this edition of the Buckley Report.