Mr SA changes the face of pageants

Mr South Africa 2017, Observatory resident Dr Habib Noorbhai, recently graduated with a PhD in Exercise Science at the University of Cape Town.

When you think of Mr South Africa, you may envision a muscular figure who distracts you with his charm and visual appeal and although the current Mr SA does this, he managed to take the crown without taking his shirt off.

Observatory’s Habib Noorbhai, 28, who recently graduated with a PhD in exercise science at UCT, is also the first Muslim man to win the pageant. He walked off with the title in November last year.

Mr Noorbhai entered Mr SA to draw attention to his non-profit organisation, The Humanitarians, which he founded in 2013. The volunteer-based organisation, promotes a healthy lifestyle, skills training, education and sport development.

Mr Noorbhai is also a sport science lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and he hopes to use his position as a biokineticist and researcher to create change in South African communities. He entered the pageant with encouragement from his friends but not without his own reservations. “There were concerns that the Mr SA title would have negative implications such as sex appeal, modelling, alcohol brands, etc. But I always stuck to my morals and values. Fortunately, being authentic and being myself worked in my favour. I am the first Mr SA to have never taken off my clothes. I am the shortest and probably skinniest Mr SA in history.”

He said his role as Mr SA had not been easy as he had had to balance his duties along with completing his PhD and running his NPO.

But now that he has graduated, he plans to focus on assisting the poor this winter.

“It has been a tough year but it’s been a journey of growth and strength. I am fortunate to have found a rhythm for the remainder of my reign and have embraced how to cope while often being in the public eye,” he said.

His advice to youth wanting to follow in his footsteps is to spend time out of their comfort zones, work smart and be proactive.

To find out more about Dr Noorbhai and the work he does, visit his website at