Dlamini-Zuma: a rare non-wobbler in politics

2013-05-08 12:12

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was recently awarded The Order of Luthuli in Gold. To me, she represents the best of Luthuli and more.

From humble rural beginnings, she served South Africa as a young activist under difficult conditions. Dlamini-Zuma became the deputy president of the SA Student Organisation when there were hardly any female leaders. For her commitment to freedom for all, she had to flee her country and leave her medical studies half finished.

At the dawn of our democracy, Dlamini-Zuma served in key portfolios with distinction as the minister of health, minister of foreign affairs and the minister of home affairs.

She proved to be one of the few politicians who understood what servant leadership means. Her love for her country, her selflessness, and her dedication to service is indisputable.

While she could have chosen the comfortable life of a medical specialist, she dedicated her life to improving the lives of others.

For her, taking on the pharmaceuticals and tobacco industry, introducing the primary health system and transforming the department of home affairs was not just about improving the lives of the disadvantaged majority. It was also about protecting their rights.

Zuma continues to serve the African continent with passion. This task she commenced with then president Thabo Mbeki in 1999 as the first female foreign minister of South Africa. Theirs was a principled and unapologetic African agenda.

As the chairperson of the African Union Commission, she has a challenging task ahead. But this is not something that she will shy away from.

Her explicit message of development, peace and empowerment of women is loud and clear.

She is not just a visionary and strategist, though. She listens and respects diverse opinions. But, when required, she is not afraid to ruthlessly cut through the maze.

This rare skill and trait makes her the effective transformational leader respected across the political spectrum, both within and outside the ANC.

Those who have worked with Dlamini-Zuma talk about her firm but empowering leadership style. They talk about her unwavering work ethic. They talk about her compassion. They talk about her personal integrity. They talk about her courage.

She is living evidence that, as a politician, it is possible to hold yourself accountable to the public, to your family, and to your good self.

A Buddist monk suggests that: “If you sit, sit. If you walk, walk. But whatever you do, don’t wobble.”

Dlamini-Zuma is one of the few non-wobblers in politics I know.

Above all, Dr Dlamini-Zuma shares with Chief Luthuli the ability to succeed in life and still remain humble and modest. She remains simple and uncomplicated.

There are no bells and whistles around and about her. What you see is what you get.

She remains grounded, with her feet firmly rooted in Bulwer, her home village in KwaZulu-Natal. Despite what and who she is in the world out there, her strong sense of identity and belonging is strong.

She is at ease with herself, her family and the community in that little village.

Dlamini-Zuma remains one of the finest leaders that South Africa has produced. The Order of Luthuli in Gold is in absolute congruence with her achievements and contribution in this country and beyond. I know that she will carry this prestigious award with the reverence it deserves.


» The Order of Luthuli in Gold was awarded to Dlamini-Zuma “for her exceptional life’s work to the cause of freedom for the people of South Africa and the development and consolidation of our democracy in the quest to create a better life for all”.

» Dr Lulu Gwagwa is the CEO of Lereko Investment and an Africa Leadership Initiative fellow

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