The role of mentorship and being a role model

“Never underestimate the power of a mentor or role model to inspire another human being”.

Nontutkhuko Mgabhi and Dr Judy Dlamini
Nontutkhuko Mgabhi and Dr Judy Dlamini

With this quote above being one of our key principles I recently spoke to Nuntuthuko Mghabi who is planning to run 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days to raise funds for the children of a remote school in South Africa. She had the opportunity to have a mentoring conversation with Dr Judy Dlamini, a South African businesswoman and author who is the Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand and the founding chairman of Mbekani Group. I asked Nuntuthuko to tell us more about her conversation.

Dr Judy Dlamini
  1. Tell us about the role of mentorship, as well as being a role model and why it is imperative in achieving equity?

As humans we learn most by way of observing, being involved and applying. Role models and mentors are individuals identified by others as examples to be ‘imitated’. It is therefore important to find a role model or a mentor whom you can identify with.  This is especially beneficial when considering previously disadvantaged groups, as these role models and mentors serve to send a strong message or to reaffirm that: “It is possible! It can be done!”

We, as individuals, may have different role models due to our diverse backgrounds and focus areas, because, as articulated by Dr Judy Dlamini in her book titled “Equal But Different”, as humans we are equal yet different. However, regardless of individuals having different role models, they all serve one purpose, which is to inspire greatness, to take a nation forward by unearthing talent and to level the playing fields.

  1. You had a one-on-one mentorship session on 14 June 2019 with one of the formidable and phenomenal women in Africa, South Africa, Dr Judy Dlamini. Tell us more about this meeting?

First and foremost, I was overcome by how much she genuinely cares.  She took the time to familiarise herself with me, my career, as well as my initiative for February 2020 of running 7 Marathons on 7 Continents in 7 Days to raise funds for the children of Khiphinkunzi Primary School.  Her interest in me as an individual, whom she has never met, was truly humbling and unexpected.  This was an extremely memorable moment and experience for me.

During our discussions, it was enlightening to discover that we share the same passion for education, giving back and closing the gap on race, gender as well as social class, thereby uplifting those who are less fortunate.  I learned a lot about her journey, with the common theme being hard work and a work ethic, having a mind-set of growth and continuously evolving.

Furthermore, we spoke about the current and past projects she has been involved in, as well as The Sifiso Foundation/Academy, which was established to honour her late son Sifiso (May his soul rest in peace).

  1. How is mentorship related to giving back?

Dr Judy Dlamini is extremely passionate about giving back.  This was evident when, without being asked and without hesitation, she donated books to all the Grade 7 learners of the school that I am supporting through my initiative.  Her gesture will be changing their lives, as some of the learners from this school have never owned a book before.  The books will be delivered to the school on Mandela Day, as part of the initiatives/activities planned for the day.

  1. Did you ever think you would meet Dr Judy Dlamini?

Although this has been a dream of mine, I honestly did not believe that a person such as myself, coming from a small city like Richards Bay, would ever be privileged enough to meet this dynamic person.  In actual fact, I consider Dr Judy Dlamini to be the South African version of Oprah Winfrey.

  1. How did you come to meet Dr Judy Dlamini?

I have to say that “Dreams don’t come true, they ARE true!”  I came to meet Dr Dlamini through a prominent business leader Dr Vincent Maphai, who is like a father and mentor to me.  It was during a telephone conversation with him that I made mention to him that Dr Judy Dlamini is my inspiration and how I would love to meet her one day.  One hour after my conversation with Dr Vincent Maphai he advised me that; “Dr Dlamini, although she is a very busy person as you may know, would like to meet with you and give you two books as part of mentorship.”  I was completely overwhelmed by his statement that I at first did not want to believe Dr Vincent Maphai.  However, he assured me that this was indeed true and we then commenced with making the arrangements for the meeting.

  1. Dr Judy Dlamini gifted you with two mentorship books. Tell us about these books.

Yes, she gifted me with two extremely valuable books that serve to mentor, especially for women. The books are titled “The Other Story” and “Equal But Different”.

Judy Dlamninis books

I have already finished reading the book “Equal But Different” and would recommend this book to all women, regardless of age and background, as I believe that women’s experiences are shared and more universal than we realise.  Research has shown that women, regardless of race, culture or continent are less valued, as almost all practices affirm men and devalue women.  The book highlights the racial, gender and social class prejudice that exists within South African society and highlights how other female leaders have overcome them.  More so, the book restores hope that achieving equality is possible.  Reading the stories of incredible female leaders from various backgrounds in terms of social class, race and upbringing is empowering.  In this book you get a glimpse of the life and stories of women who have made a difference, especially with regards to women emancipation.  You have no choice but to be inspired by them.  I encourage every woman to acquire a copy of the book and to draw inspiration from it.

I have now started reading “The Other Story”.  This book is an invitation to fireside chats with some of Africa’s biggest achievers, women and men of different ages. These are trendsetters from different sectors.

  1. Dr Dlamini gave a gift to the Grade 7 learners of the school that you are supporting through your initiative of running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days. Tell us more about this.

My expectations upon meeting with Dr Dlamini were truly exceeded, as her generous donation was unexpected. I shared with her that I was planning to spend Mandela Day at Khiphinkunzi Primary School in partnership with the University of KwaZulu Natal, in order to involve community members by teaching them how to plant vegetables and care for the garden, which would in turn assist to combat hunger and poverty.  Dr Dlamini offered to support this day by donating books to all the Grade 7 learners of Khiphinkunzi Primary School.

  1. You received two books and all Grade 7 learners of Khiphinkunzi Primary school will receive a book on Mandela Day. How is mentorship connected with books?

A book serves to educate and education equates to opportunities.  A book is a mobile learning institution and mentorship is the transfer of institutional knowledge.  The two serve the same purpose as it is all about learning and development.  This is more evident in South Africa, particularly in rural villages, where schools do not have a library and parents might not have had the opportunity to have attended school.  The culture of reading and learning is highly compromised, hence the drive to donate books is so critical.

  1. How would you summarize the hour you spent with Dr Judy Dlamini?

Inspiring Greatness!

About Nontuthuko Mgabhi

Nontuthuko Mgabhi pictured at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, 2 May 2019. Picture: Rogan Ward

Nontuthuko Mghabi is the General Manager HR at Richards Bay Coal Terminal in South Africa, and aims to become the first African female to run 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 consecutive days in 2020.  She can be contacted on email; or mobile; +27 82 839 6442 and via the website http://gobeyondforachild.com

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