Businesswoman‚ doctor, author, philanthropist, wife and mother, Dr Judy Dlamini masters multiple roles. 

Having just added chancellor to her list of accolades, we explore Dr Dlamini’s impressive career and commitment to giving back. 

In December last year, Dr Judy Dlamini made history when she was appointed as the new Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), becoming the first black female ever to hold that position. ‘What I bring to the role is my passion for education,’ she says. ‘I always say it’s an honour to serve and whether I’m the Chancellor of Wits or not‚ I will continue to serve, because my purpose in life is to serve.’ 

Born in 1959 in Natal, Dlamini was raised by hard-working parents who taught her the value of self-determination and the importance of education as a means of escaping poverty. In her family, the only options were hard work, prayer and giving it your best at all times. Her mother was a primary school teacher and her father was a successful entrepreneur, despite having received very little in the way of formal education.

‘My parents were very special and I consider them my true role models,’ she smiles.

Driven by her dream of becoming a doctor, Dlamini earned her medical degree in 1985. Soon after she opened her own practice, while juggling new motherhood and marriage to her high school sweetheart, Sizwe Nxasana. A decade later, after being held up at gunpoint one day while leaving her practice, Dlamini decided it was time for a career change. ‘I lost the passion, maybe because of that, and something in me died,’ she says. Having enjoyed a successful medical career, she also felt she needed more stimulation. 

Having completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Wits in her 40s, Dlamini went on to build an impressive business career. She has held various board positions at a number of blue chip companies, including that of chairperson of pharmaceutical giant Aspen Pharmacare, and she is chairperson of the Mbekani Group, a business she started more than 20 years ago. The mother of two adult children also boasts a number of awards, including the African Economy Builder Lifetime Achievement Award. Yet she remains soft-spoken and humble. ‘I am not the brightest, but I pursued education,’ she says. ‘Education gives you options. Focus and hard work are what make you unstoppable.’

The tragic loss of her son Sifiso in 2012 prompted Dlamini and her family to found the education business, Sifiso Learning Group, in his honour to help guide students to fulfill their potential as future African leaders. Dlamini is also committed to various community projects and works as co-founder, alongside her husband, of Mkhiwa Trust, which focuses on health, rural development and education. In 2014, 

Dlamini also received her Doctorate in Business Leadership from UNISA. ‘It was so important to me because I had proven to myself that I could get it,’ she says. Her work on this PhD later inspired her to write her first book, Equal But Different, in 2017. ‘I am selling a conversation about gender equality, which is a passion of mine.’

It is this drive to live a life of purpose and effect real change that has secured Dlamini’s place as one of our country’s foremost influencers who is an inspiration to many. ‘Nothing is impossible if you put your head down and work hard, and refuse to be told what you can and what you can’t be,’ she says. ‘It all starts with you.’

“Education gives you options. Focus and hard work are what make you unstoppable"

A PURPOSEFUL LIFE A PURPOSEFUL LIFE Reviewed by Jet Club on June 03, 2019 Rating: 5
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