Biography

It is always difficult to select biographical details of a person in the hope that they will convey some measure of the person behind the facts: people are invariably bigger than the sum of their parts. Dr Oscar Dhlomo’s many achievements and commendations are deeply inspiring not only for the effect they had –and continue to have – on so many of us today, but also because they attest to the generous, rare spirit of a man who was both a visionary and a validator.    He was born on 28 December 1943 in Putellos, Umbumbulu, about 30kn south-east of Durban, the fifth of 11 children of Isaac and Flora Dhlomo, a transport operator who ran a fleet of buses. He attended primary and secondary school in Umbumbulu and matriculated at Amanzimtoti College (formerly Adams College) in 1962, having distinguished himself academically. In 1963 he enrolled at the University College of Zululand for a BA in history and social anthropology. While an undergraduate, he was active on the Students’ Representative Council, serving as its Chairman. He completed his degree in 1965 and two years later, obtained his University Education Diploma. He then taught history to pupils at Menzi High School in Umlazi, as well as to local teachers studying part- time for their matric certificates. At the same time, he furthered his own studies and obtained a Honours degree in history in 1970. In 1973 – aged only 30 – he was appointed Headmaster of KwaShaka High School in Umlazi and completed a BEd with the University of Zululand.  The following year, he was appointed a lecturer in didactics at the university, specialising in history, and he obtained his Med in 1975. Two years later, in recognition of his academic achievements and erudition in the field of education, Dhlomo was awarded a British Council Scholarship, as well as the Ernest Oppenheimer University Travelling Fellowship, which enabled him to visit the UK, the USA and several African countries, where he researched trends in teacher training in preparation for his DEd – a degree he finally obtained from the University of South Africa in 1980. He married Nokukhanya Venetia Ntshingila, a nursing sister from Claremont in KwaZulu-Natal. The couple had three sons (Lwazi, Mfundo and Mpumelelo (deceased)) and one daughter, Khanyisile. In 1977, Dhlomo’s long-standing interest in politics, against the backdrop of South Africa’s apartheid policies –particularly the creation of “homelands”, which purported to be independent, but which were in fact completely disempowered, obscure patches of territory assigned by the Nationalist Government – now led him to change course. Wishing to support the stance taken by Chief Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, in refusing “homeland independence”, he successfully stood for election to the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly, representing his home district of Umbumbulu. A year later, he was appointed Minister of Education & Culture in the KwaZulu government and then Secretary-General of Buthelezi’s Inkatha Yenkululeko Yseziwe political party (later to become the Inkatha Freedom Party), in which capacity he called for a national convention of political leaders in South Africa, warning that a peaceful transition from apartheid to liberation would not be supported by the country’s black population indefinitely. The Nationalist Party’s intransigence and disingenuousness in amending its policies would eventually compel black South Africans to turn to violence as the only effective medium of change. Dhlomo was also made Vice-President of the KwaZulu Monuments Foundation and from 1980, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the KwaZulu Training Trust, which focused on technical education. Besides his pedagogic and political interests, Dhlomo also pursued a business career, becoming Managing Director of a company named Mandla-Matla, which took over Ilanga, the largest vernacular newspaper in South Africa. Dhlomo’s world view was driven by three distinct, but interrelated elements: a passion for education at all levels (including political and social conscientisation); an awareness of moral responsibility, informed by profound spiritual and religious values (a lay preacher, he was also a Deacon in the United Congregational Church) ; and the need for proactive participation in uplifting communities. In his ministerial capacity, he was able to combine all three of these spheres by introducing the subject of ubuntu – botho (good citizenship) as a compulsory school subject in KwaZulu. By integrating responsible and ethical behaviour with the broader school curriculum, pupils would come to understand the natural relationship between personal development and moral duty. The subject (which came to be known as the “Inkatha syllabus”) also explored the political philosophies of Inkatha and other black liberation movements in sub-Saharan Africa. In 1986, Dhlomo served as Inkatha’s representative at the KwaZulu-Natal Indaba, where 37 delegates representing various organisations negotiated proposals for a new provincial government for the region. A few months later, he was a member of the delegation which presented these proposals to Chris Heunis, the Minister of Constitutional Development & Planning. In 1988, Dhlomo was appointed Chairman of the Indaba – a position he was again elected to the following year. Essentially a pacifist, in 1987 – as tensions between Inkatha and the African National Congress heightened – Dhlomo met then ANC Director of Information, Thabo Mbeki, in New York to discuss ways of diffusing the conflict.  By 1990, wishing to focus on his family and business interests, Dhlomo resigned as Inkatha Secretary-General, as well as from the KwaZulu Cabinet and Legislative Assembly.  Shortly thereafter, SA’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roelof (“Pik”) Botha, approached him to become SA’s Ambassador to the USA, but he declined the position. The following year, aware of the often deep ideological and ethnic rifts between diverse political power blocs in the country – Dhlomo launched the Institute for Multi-Party Democracy, of which he was Executive Chairman. The organisation aimed to promote tolerance of political diversity and national reconciliation in the country. Dhlomo’s restrained, but assertive approach, as well as his ability to engage with all players in the political spectrum in the interests of constructive dialogue, was noted by the New York Times, which described him thus: “The quietly-spoken Dhlomo is on amiable terms not only with the governing National Party and the African National Congress, but just about every other political organisation as well, from the Black Consciousness movement to the white Conservative Party.” During SA’s first democratic elections in 1994, he served as an electoral commissioner and was also a political columnist for The Star. His business initiatives were varied and included establishing OD Investments, a family holding company with interests in property and gaming, ownership of Rheem SA (one of SA’s largest privately-owned industrial packaging companies) and memberships on the boards of Rembrandt, Standard Bank, Shell SA, Anglovaal and the Development Bank of SA. His recreational interests were equally varied, including a passion for classical music, literature (particularly biographical and historical works), football (he was an ardent supporter of Manchester United) and entertaining on his sugarcane farm, Aloha. Dhlomo passed away on 29 August 2008. His legacy is one which reveals his almost prescient understanding of the need to nurture generations  of South Africans who would not allow the hardships and privations of their past to undermine their future. Dhlomo was driven by a profound conviction that leadership and integrity should be indivisible, that political liberation could not be sustained without continuing secular and spiritual education, that intellectual curiosity was an indispensable ingredient in personal development, and that basic family and community values were the bedrock on which all these ideals were based. These ideals were ones he not only advocated, but exemplified in his own lifestyle. A devoted father, grandfather, husband and educator, he left his imprint on all who crossed his path. The Oscar Dhlomo Foundation was established to honour his memory and continue the work to which he was committed, while upholding the principles by which he lived. 
© Dr Oscar Dhlomo Foundation 2017   | Registration: IT 923/2010/PMB |  All rights reserved  |  Contact Us

Biography

It is always difficult to select biographical details of a person in the hope that they will convey some measure of the person behind the facts: people are invariably bigger than the sum of their parts. Dr Oscar Dhlomo’s many achievements and commendations are deeply inspiring not only for the effect they had –and continue to have – on so many of us today, but also because they attest to the generous, rare spirit of a man who was both a visionary and a validator.    He was born on 28 December 1943 in Putellos, Umbumbulu, about 30kn south-east of Durban, the fifth of 11 children of Isaac and Flora Dhlomo, a transport operator who ran a fleet of buses. He attended primary and secondary school in Umbumbulu and matriculated at Amanzimtoti College (formerly Adams College) in 1962, having distinguished himself academically. In 1963 he enrolled at the University College of Zululand for a BA in history and social anthropology. While an undergraduate, he was active on the Students’ Representative Council, serving as its Chairman. He completed his degree in 1965 and two years later, obtained his University Education Diploma. He then taught history to pupils at Menzi High School in Umlazi, as well as to local teachers studying part-time for their matric certificates. At the same time, he furthered his own studies and obtained a Honours degree in history in 1970. In 1973 – aged only 30 – he was appointed Headmaster of KwaShaka High School in Umlazi and completed a BEd with the University of Zululand.  The following year, he was appointed a lecturer in didactics at the university, specialising in history, and he obtained his Med in 1975. Two years later, in recognition of his academic achievements and erudition in the field of education, Dhlomo was awarded a British Council Scholarship, as well as the Ernest Oppenheimer University Travelling Fellowship, which enabled him to visit the UK, the USA and several African countries, where he researched trends in teacher training in preparation for his DEd – a degree he finally obtained from the University of South Africa in 1980. He married Nokukhanya Venetia Ntshingila, a nursing sister from Claremont in KwaZulu-Natal. The couple had three sons (Lwazi, Mfundo and Mpumelelo (deceased)) and one daughter, Khanyisile. In 1977, Dhlomo’s long-standing interest in politics, against the backdrop of South Africa’s apartheid policies –particularly the creation of “homelands”, which purported to be independent, but which were in fact completely disempowered, obscure patches of territory assigned by the Nationalist Government – now led him to change course. Wishing to support the stance taken by Chief Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, in refusing “homeland independence”, he successfully stood for election to the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly, representing his home district of Umbumbulu. A year later, he was appointed Minister of Education & Culture in the KwaZulu government and then Secretary-General of Buthelezi’s Inkatha Yenkululeko Yseziwe political party (later to become the Inkatha Freedom Party), in which capacity he called for a national convention of political leaders in South Africa, warning that a peaceful transition from apartheid to liberation would not be supported by the country’s black population indefinitely. The Nationalist Party’s intransigence and disingenuousness in amending its policies would eventually compel black South Africans to turn to violence as the only effective medium of change. Dhlomo was also made Vice-President of the KwaZulu Monuments Foundation and from 1980, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the KwaZulu Training Trust, which focused on technical education. Besides his pedagogic and political interests, Dhlomo also pursued a business career, becoming Managing Director of a company named Mandla-Matla, which took over Ilanga, the largest vernacular newspaper in South Africa. Dhlomo’s world view was driven by three distinct, but interrelated elements: a passion for education at all levels (including political and social conscientisation); an awareness of moral responsibility, informed by profound spiritual and religious values (a lay preacher, he was also a Deacon in the United Congregational Church) ; and the need for proactive participation in uplifting communities. In his ministerial capacity, he was able to combine all three of these spheres by introducing the subject of ubuntu – botho (good citizenship) as a compulsory school subject in KwaZulu. By integrating responsible and ethical behaviour with the broader school curriculum, pupils would come to understand the natural relationship between personal development and moral duty. The subject (which came to be known as the “Inkatha syllabus”) also explored the political philosophies of Inkatha and other black liberation movements in sub-Saharan Africa. In 1986, Dhlomo served as Inkatha’s representative at the KwaZulu-Natal Indaba, where 37 delegates representing various organisations negotiated proposals for a new provincial government for the region. A few months later, he was a member of the delegation which presented these proposals to Chris Heunis, the Minister of Constitutional Development & Planning. In 1988, Dhlomo was appointed Chairman of the Indaba – a position he was again elected to the following year. Essentially a pacifist, in 1987 – as tensions between Inkatha and the African National Congress heightened – Dhlomo met then ANC Director of Information, Thabo Mbeki, in New York to discuss ways of diffusing the conflict.  By 1990, wishing to focus on his family and business interests, Dhlomo resigned as Inkatha Secretary-General, as well as from the KwaZulu Cabinet and Legislative Assembly.  Shortly thereafter, SA’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roelof (“Pik”) Botha, approached him to become SA’s Ambassador to the USA, but he declined the position. The following year, aware of the often deep ideological and ethnic rifts between diverse political power blocs in the country – Dhlomo launched the Institute for Multi- Party Democracy, of which he was Executive Chairman. The organisation aimed to promote tolerance of political diversity and national reconciliation in the country. Dhlomo’s restrained, but assertive approach, as well as his ability to engage with all players in the political spectrum in the interests of constructive dialogue, was noted by the New York Times, which described him thus: “The quietly- spoken Dhlomo is on amiable terms not only with the governing National Party and the African National Congress, but just about every other political organisation as well, from the Black Consciousness movement to the white Conservative Party.” During SA’s first democratic elections in 1994, he served as an electoral commissioner and was also a political columnist for The Star. His business initiatives were varied and included establishing OD Investments, a family holding company with interests in property and gaming, ownership of Rheem SA (one of SA’s largest privately-owned industrial packaging companies) and memberships on the boards of Rembrandt, Standard Bank, Shell SA, Anglovaal and the Development Bank of SA. His recreational interests were equally varied, including a passion for classical music, literature (particularly biographical and historical works), football (he was an ardent supporter of Manchester United) and entertaining on his sugarcane farm, Aloha. Dhlomo passed away on 29 August 2008. His legacy is one which reveals his almost prescient understanding of the need to nurture generations  of South Africans who would not allow the hardships and privations of their past to undermine their future. Dhlomo was driven by a profound conviction that leadership and integrity should be indivisible, that political liberation could not be sustained without continuing secular and spiritual education, that intellectual curiosity was an indispensable ingredient in personal development, and that basic family and community values were the bedrock on which all these ideals were based. These ideals were ones he not only advocated, but exemplified in his own lifestyle. A devoted father, grandfather, husband and educator, he left his imprint on all who crossed his path. The Oscar Dhlomo Foundation was established to honour his memory and continue the work to which he was committed, while upholding the principles by which he lived. 
© Dr Oscar Dhlomo Foundation 2017 Registration: IT 923/2010/PMB |  All rights reserved  |  Contact Us