A riveting kaleidoscopic insight into the public and private life of a unique leader and public official, A.T. Dlamini who traversed the leadership landscape of the kingdom of Eswatini, formerly Swaziland.
Written in a readable prose, laced with personal and deep knowledge of the subject of the book, the author, Ukozor Victor Macdonald, weaves this 343-page biography with quotations from some people who had a first-hand interaction with him.
The book, Ultimate printers and publishers Limited, was interspersed with a generous dose of historic and contemporary coloured photographs and documents, which helped in elevating the aesthetic beauty of the book.
While the continent of Africa has faced a perennial leadership crisis, there have been individuals whom fate had prepared for the path of leadership and who have proceeded to demonstrate excellence. Dr. Absalom Themba Dlamini, is one of these few and his giant strides as prime minister of Eswatimi (Swaziland) are what has continued to be a standard for his successors. The author of this book, Pastor Ukozor Victor Macdonald gives us deep insights into the life of this ingenious individual, popularly called Dr. A.T. Dlamini, through a well-detailed and researched masterpiece.
Unlike some other biographies which take the more common chronological approach to the life of its focus, the author sharply differs from this approach. Rather he focused each chapter on a particular theme, drawing stories and examples of how Dr. A.T. Dlamini demonstrated the theme of each chapter at various times in his life. The author starts with a focus on Dr. Dlamini’s family history and how he got the values which made him become who he is. He then proceeded to Dr. Dlamini’s nuclear family, his wife, and son, and how he related with them and their values.
Chapter one of the seventeen-chapter book, traces his trajectory from the cradle and how his mother played a special role in the upbringing of the young Themba, particularly in the area of education, a move that was to later shape his adulthood. This chapter also encapsulated how his early embrace of Christianity in its truest form, particularly the Apostolic Faith Mission, was later to shape his values as an adult. This chapter also made a foray into his marriage, a union that helped in stabilizing his career, which is well adumbrated in the next chapter which is aptly titled “Behold! The home makers” where the author focuses on the subject’s wife, Sibongile, their marriage and Dr Dlamini’s emergence as the prime minister in 2003.
Garlanding Dr Dlamini in superlative terms, for receiving “the prestigious Africa illustrious Award on ‘Excellence in Leadership’ in Lagos on December 9, 2022 for his philanthropic works, the author describes him as “an all-rounder since he has been a role player in the public and private sectors”.
Chapter three of the book focuses on the essential Dr Dlamini.
Due to his passion for honesty and transparency, he was given a moniker –“Mr accountability”, a sobriquet that sat well with his persona.
In the next chapter, Dr. Damini’s humility and depth of knowledge were in the spotlight and the next chapter focused on his commitment to social welfare, the next focused on the awards he received, and the next on his commitment to sports. These are just a few of the chapters where the author, through the testimonies of eyewitnesses, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances carefully dissected Dr. Dlamini’s life.
Two of such stories however struck a chord with me. Firstly, his intervention in the Central Bank when the research department started sitting together for lunch, separate from others, with the potential to introduce classism into the harmonious working relationship at the bank. Dr. Dlamini’s move to join the table even though he was not in the department and his subsequent invitation of others helped restore cohesion, cooperation, and a collective sense of purpose in the bank, a seeming socialist, classless predilection.
Secondly, his handling of the controversy surrounding his friend, Masilela’s book titled “Number 43”. With the launch date set, talks had it that the book was against the interest of His Majesty, the King of Swaziland. In this case, Dr. Dlamini was caught between loyalty to His Majesty whom he served as Prime minister and his close friend. His commitment to mediating, and reading the book within a short period to provide a clearer picture of the issues to the king was commendable and this amplifies Dr. Dlamini’s wisdom and leadership capacity. These are just two of many such stories gathered by the author about the wonderful man called A.T. Dlamini.
It was with the same leadership sagacity that he navigated the stormy political storms at a time when he became the prime minister. With wisdom and tact, he was about the calm the raging storms. This was well adumbrated in the chapter titled – “A calming influence on political storm”.
Suffused with empathy, the streaks of acts of philanthropism of A.T. Dlamini did not escape the mention of the author as this was well-articulated in one of the chapters. He was quoted by the author to have once posited: ”A number of the people cannot afford daily square meals and I am fully aware of this. So, I always think of doing my very best to alleviate their plights”. This resonated well with the passion of late Nigerian philanthropist, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, who was regarded as one of the greatest philanthropists to ever emerge from Nigeria.
At the end of the book in Chapter seventeen, titled “Welcome, Mr Rule of Law,” the author garnished the book with A.T. Dlamini’s policy speech to the Parliament of Swaziland (Eswatini) in September 2004, where he enumerated his rule of law initiatives under the broader issue of judicial management. This is closely followed by “Words on marble”, which basically are his Quotable quotes.
This literary work is a laudable feat of patience, determination and resilience. The author demonstrated his deep knowledge of the subject of the biography. It’s a bold literary piece in the genre of biographies, where the reader can learn from the enviable life of an outstanding personality that bestrode the landscape of Eswatini like a colossus that he is. The reader is able to piece together, certain leadership nuggets, laced with profound ecclesiastical simplicity of the subject of this biography. The reader also gets warned, of the pitfalls that are strewn along the pathway of politics, business and rulership.
A little drawback in the book, however, as it is in most biographies, is that the author garlanded the subject of the book with prodigious superlatives, leaving out his foibles and follies as a human being.
Despite this, this is a fantastic book which l would readily recommend to those who need some nuggets in humility in leadership.