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Honorary doctorate for high profile SA entrepreneur: Dr Judy Dlamini

Dr Judy Dlamini's first degree was in medicine; now, 34 years down the line, she walked onto the same University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) stage to receive an Honorary Doctorate in Economics in recognition of her economic activism and role as one of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs.

She was capped Doctor of Economics (honoris causa) at a ceremony held on the UKZN Westville campus, on Friday, 5 April.

Dlamini is Founder and Executive Chairperson of the Mbekani Group, Chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand, Medical Doctor and author.

"I can't believe it's been so long! My honorary doctorate, for which I'm truly grateful, is in a different field, because after practising medicine for 13 years, I ventured out into business. I've now been in business longer than I have been a clinician," mused Dlamini.

Being back at UKZN, especially on the Westville campus, was very nostalgic for her because she was born in the area and raised by her mother, a primary school teacher; and her father, an entrepreneur, always emphasising the value of education.

"As a little girl, I walked the streets of Westville to catch a bus to school or to the grocery store. More importantly, I remember going to then University of Durban-Westville (UDW) with my half-sister, uSis Phumzile. When my sister heard I had applied to medical school, she advised me to also apply at Durban-Westville to do physiotherapy," said Dlamini.

"Though she didn't say it outright, I don't think she believed I would be accepted at medical school and wanted me to have a plan B. I went with her out of politeness because that was not my dream. In those days, you had to apply for ministerial consent to study at a university that was classified for a race group different to your own.

"Education is a liberator; the education of one person has the power to change outcomes in a village. Educated people who are successful make success accessible in unlikely neighbourhoods."

With education as her motivation, Dlamini, who also holds an MBA and PhD in business leadership, continues to chart her own path, which includes various business ventures in fields such as medicine, retail and property, including the Mbekani Group she founded 22 years ago.

Serving on many boards and embodying the spirit of philanthropy through community outreach initiatives, Dlamini is not willing to let the knowledge she has acquired be solely for her benefit, and has shared it in her book: "Equal But Different: Women Leaders' Life Stories - Overcoming Race, Gender and Social Class".

The work relates positive stories of contributions made by ordinary African folk to foster a positive mindset in youngsters.

Dr Judy Dlamini: Speech

Speech by Dr Judy DlaminiDelivered at a UKZN graduation ceremonyWestville Campus

5 April 2019

Chancellor, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Nana Poku, Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor and Head of Law & Management Studies, Prof Brian McArthur, graduands, diplomats, family and friends, ladies and gentlemen, Sanibonani, Good Morning.

It's a true honour to be recognised by your alma mater, what makes it even more special is that it occurs at my place of birth, in Westville. It brings back many memories, memories of gratitude. I am sincerely grateful for the recognition.

When I was asked to say a few words I could only think of two messages that I would like to share especially with the graduands. The first message is about celebrating my alma matter and reminding the graduands what really matters in life, in my view.

In the month of March this year alone, someone who grew up as a herdsman in the village of Mbahela outside Thohoyandou in Venda, became the first person in the world to conduct a middle ear transplant operation using 3D printed middle ear bones. Professor Mashudu Tshifularo graduated with an MBChB from this university in 1988.

Within the same month of March, your own Dean of Clinical Medicine, Professor Ncoza Dlova made the biggest break-though in hair loss among African women after she helped discover a new gene that is a major cause of permanent hair loss among women of African descent.

I am sharing this with you to show what you are capable of. However, this doesn't by accident which leads me to my second message:

Finding your purpose in life and living it is my definition of success. It starts with a dream, dream big, Follow your instincts, be curious, love what you do, love learning, keep an open heart, an open mind and a strong spirit within a framework of integrity at all times. Try and have fun while you are at it.

Gifts/talent without hard work and further investment in self do not equal success and a purposeful life. In the past 3 years I've had the privilege to interview no less than 30 achievers, men and women who have achieved great success in their lives, men and women from different parts of the continent. They have a few things in common, all of them attribute their success to hard work, to continuous learning, a positive attitude and never giving up on themselves and what they set out to achieve.

There's a quote that resonates with me by Henry Ford. "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right." This speaks to attitude and faith. Luck comes along the way but you can't plan for it.

As I conclude I would like to remind us one of the most important ingredient to who you are and your success. For me it's my family, my parents who sacrificed everything for me; my husband of 35 years who allows me to dream and pursue my dreams and continues to be the wind beneath my wings.

They say a mother is as happy as her least happy child. I know this because I've lived it. I thank my late son Sifiso for his unconditional love and support, my daughter Nkanyezi who has always supported me and continues to determine my level of happiness.

I wish you every success as you make your contribution in building a strong ethical society. Ngiyabonga!