Graduate School of Business and Leadership’s Professor Kriben Pillay surprised students when he brought Durban hip hop hitmaker Zakwe and his family to share their inspirational journey of mindful leadership as part of his lecture.

The lecture was part of the Student Leadership Development Camp organised by UKZN’s Student Governance, Leadership and Development attended by 70 student leaders which Pillay decided was the perfect opportunity to share the artist’s story which is linked to his father, Dr Peter Zakwe who was supervised by him in his doctoral studies.

‘You might be asking yourself why I have bought a popular singer and his family to talk to you today and the answer is that their story is the most wonderful story of mindful leadership I know,’ said Pillay, whilst explaining how Dr Zakwe, a retired education inspector, used his personal experience to explore leadership in the education system.

‘Dr Zakwe’s line manager made death threats because Dr Zakwe held a doctorate and he didn’t. He (Dr Zakwe) had to go through a lot of legal processes not only to challenge this form of unethical leadership, but to keep his job within the education department. I am proud to say that Dr Zakwe has completed his thesis and will be graduating in September and I want him to share how he managed to nurture leadership in his family in times of turmoil,’ he said.

Reflecting on his PhD journey which began in 2009, Dr Zakwe encouraged students to think about how they can use their studies and knowledge to change the spaces they occupy.

‘Great leaders go through turbulent times and when I think of everything I went through and when it came to doing this PhD, I knew that I had to do and say something that has never been said before. My contribution to the body of knowledge is enhancing leadership in service delivery. We hear a lot today about service delivery protests and I hope that mine will be a mind growing thesis throughout Africa because it is novel research methodology that should be adopted world-wide,’ said Dr Zakwe.

‘After retiring last year as a schools’ inspector in uMsinga and Nquthu, I am proud to say that this was achieved by a rural man from uMsinga who hopes to go on and write the first research book on service delivery methodology,’ added Dr Zwakwe.

Speaking on how his father’s leadership experiences has nurtured and encouraged him to follow his own aspirations, Zakwe shared the good and bad experiences taught to him by the music industry.

‘When I entered the music industry, I was so eager to get signed to the point that when they offered me the contract I just signed without getting a lawyer. Little did I know that I was setting myself up for something that was going to chain me up. I released an album in 2011 and it went gold but the catch was that contractually I couldn’t do music for three years and that is why I went quiet. That is why I feel that the same thing that happened to my father was happening to me but I had to keep pushing. Now what I am doing is educating other artists about my experience through a movement called Tsotsi by Nature so that we pass on these valuable lessons to the youth,’ said the rapper.

Words and photograph: Thandiwe Jumo