Nolulamo (Lulu) Nobambiswano Gwala completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University Of Fort Hare. She proceeded to the University of Natal’s Planning School where she completed her Masters in Town and Regional Planning. From there Lulu went to the London School of Economics and Political Science where she graduated cum laude with an M.Sc. (Social Policy & Planning). She then obtained a PhD from University College London. The early years of Dr Gwala’s career (1981-85) focused mainly on physical planning. In 1986 she joined the Built Environment Support Group, an NGO based at the University of Natal, where they supported communities in townships and squatter settlements with their housing and related struggles.
After studying abroad, Dr Gwala took up a position in 1992 a senior lecturer at the University of Natal’s Department of Town and Regional Planning. While there she served on a 12 member Commission for the Delineation and Demarcation of Provincial Boundaries, which decided on the country’s current provincial boundaries. She was then appointed a Deputy Director General in the national Department of Public Works from 1995 until 1998. Dr Gwala was instrumental in the development of policy for the transformation of the construction industry and managed an infrastructure led job creation programme.In 1995 Dr Gwala also served as the presidential appointee on the Commission on Provincial Government, and later as Deputy Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Local Government Transformation. As CEO of the Independent Development Trust (IDT), from 1998 until 2003, Dr Gwala transformed the Trust from a grant making to a development management agency. Under her leadership the IDT was appointed to assist government in the coordination of the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme.
Policy research also forms part of Dr Gwala’s extensive resume. In 2004, she was appointed by the World Bank to co-produce a research paper on the history and status of Community Driven Development in South Africa. Aside from authoring policy documents, Dr Gwala has also published in the fields of gender, housing and development management. She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Lereko Investments, a black-owned investment company, and one of the principals in the Lereko Metier Capital Growth Fund. Dr Gwala also serves as non-executive director of FirstRand, Massmart and Sun International. She is also the Chairperson of Aurecon Africa. She recently served as the Deputy Chairperson of the Eastern Cape Planning Commission.
Dr Gwala’s passion for spatial equity has driven her philanthropic work. Two decades ago she founded the Mhakazi Trust to empower the young people of Umzimkulu, some of whom have even graduated from tertiary institutions. Dr Lulu Gwala is a multifaceted woman: an accomplished development planner; business leader; and philanthropist. She is a keen writer and photographer who is currently studying philosophy.