Wits university’s first female chancellor, Dr Judy Dlamini, wants to put the record straight on the popular narrative about Africans.
To this end, she has penned The Other Story, which tells of 12 inspirational African leaders and entrepreneurs. This is her second book, following the 2017 publication of Equal but Different: Women Leaders’ Life Stories, Overcoming Race, Gender and Social Class.
This sequel about high achievers reflects on what being an African means and what African success is.
Dlamini said her inspiration came from the lack of balance in the African narrative, with the media only putting out a single account not of the doom and gloom around being African.
“I just feel there are so many heroes among us that we don’t hear of.
“So I wanted to tell of our successes that transcend generations.
“We didn’t just emerge yesterday and became successful, but our people have been working hard for many years,” said Dlamini.
“The single story that is repeated in the media so many times has become the only story about us. But we need to balance the story. Let’s do the other story that backs our abilities, which reminds us and shows us what we are capable of and what other Africans have done.”
The book covers the stories of people aged between 28 and 98 including Gloria Serobe, Zanele Mbeki, Sizwe Nxasana, Dr Richard Maponya, Fred Swaniker and Ali Mufuruki, each with a specific theme.
“If you look at Sis Zanele, with an achiever for a husband (Thabo Mbeki), one might think all that is required is to just support him and raise kids, if you have any. But we see her showing the importance of having purpose as a human being who happens to be a woman. Just reading her story, you see that she represents so many women because of what she has done for so many. Then you look at people like Babatunde Folawiyo, who is featured in the last chapter and see how he is a product of four generations of African entrepreneurs.
“And I am simply saying to an African child that you can start your own empire and pass it on to the generations that follow,” she said.
As a writer who aimed to inspire while informing, Dlamini hoped the book would reveal the truth behind the strength that people of colour possessed to achieve great things during the dark days of apartheid.
“That has extreme power to inspire a child to never give up. These people were born during the apartheid times, but look at what they were able to achieve in their individual spaces and also they went out to make a difference in other people’s lives. Africans read and want to read stories that talk about them. Even in the face of the expense of books, Africans are still open to reading,” she said.
Reflecting on her new position, she highlighted how disheartening it was to be the first female “anything” in 2018.
“But it is what it is. The role I play is a guidance and ceremonial role, but it is also very important as I am a role model for first-year students to see the sky is the limit, and that they can reach any height if they work hard.”