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 By Cpl Tebogo Kekana, AD ASTRA Magazine, photo by WO2 David Nomtshongwana

“To be an effective mentor, one must care, know what you know, and care about the person you are sharing with”, said the late Nobel Peace Prize-winning author Maya Angelou. The recently appointed 50-year-old Brig Gen Sipiwo Dlomo heading Directorate Air Capability and Plans (DACP) echoed these sentiments:

“Mentorship is one of the most influential parts of an individual’s personal and career development, but it is something we don’t always take advantage of. That is why I speak to anyone I meet on the corridors, especially the young bright sparks that I spot doing the South African Air Force (SAAF) proud. I enquire about their military journey and what they are currently doing, I worry about such, as they are our future leaders”.

With just a few months in office, Brig Gen Sipiwo Dlomo says that as one matures, they realize that life is not about them alone, if we can get that right, we will soon learn to truly value other people.

Brig Gen Sipiwo Dlomo, Director Air Capability Plan

Born in Chesterville and raised in Kwa Mashu, Kwazulu Natal, Brig Gen Dlomo is the second of six children born to Dumazile Dlomo. He tells of how losing his father at the age of 12 prepared him for the leadership role. “My brother, Sibongiseni Dlomo was at boarding school and I had to ascend to become the eldest and the most responsible around the house, that is what taught me independence. I don’t know how it would have felt to have a father while growing up but I know for sure that my mother, working as a domestic worker at King Edward, made ends meet. She instilled in us the culture of waking up early, having a day’s purpose and fulfilling it”.

He related how good he was at Maths and English saying: “I had a strong ambition of becoming a medical doctor (Dr). There was a Dr around our area, Dr Mzimela, I found him to be in touch with his community and a pioneer. Asked about what being upright meant to him he mentioned: “It means embracing my values, taking my work seriously and not pitching for meetings unprepared, it means being honest while working hard. I am not ashamed of saying I don’t know, or to ask for help.

I read everything that I lay my hands on. As a young democracy; we need to level the fields for the younger generation. As an effect-based person, when a day is over, we must be able to account on how much we have changed the environment and made a difference. When one is not around, the show must still go on, seamlessly. That’s what we refer to when we speak of transferal of skills”.

Gen Dlomo joined the ranks in 1980 and says that even after enduring many challenges in life, he has been fortunate to survive until today. “The older generation (myself included) is going to leave, while we are still here, we need to positively influence, guide and enrich the young crop to maximize their full potential and take this military forward. The young recruits are differently wired, the gap between us and them must not be allowed to be any wider than it is. We need to include them in strategic posts so that they can be ready to lead. There is great potential in this young generation, we need to identify and nurture it.

Workplaces are becoming increasingly globally oriented, so public servants need to know that it serves them to enhance the diverse perspectives of the working population through mentorship. Mentoring the workforce means allowing members to develop and learn more”.

The self-taught leader, an Intelligence Officer and a father of two, (Buhle who is 9 and Thokoza who is 4), has represented the South African National Defence Force in various operations in and out of the country. Others might recall the operational work he did as a Defence Attaché in the United States of America during 2009-2013. A military Attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission responsible for representational duties, act as a liaison between two countries. Among other duties, they serve as advisors to the Ambassador, moreover, men and women who have served as Attaches claim to have reaped personal rewards rarely duplicated in other parts of the military service.

He also remembers vividly how he and his team outdid themselves during the Mozambican floods, which were extensively published in the mainstream media and regarded as the many outstanding rescue missions by the SANDF.

A sounding board for his other siblings and a husband to Mrs Tebogo Dlomo, he declares that he values the warmth and support of family, as it is the pillar that holds everything together. “I believe in women, one raised me and I saw how resilient she was, that is why I am passionate about the advancement of the girl child and the youth in general”. Brig Gen Dlomo has an inquisitive mind and places education at the forefront in social development, “I like teaching, planning and researching different issues, just to keep abreast with what’s happening around me. I am fascinated by languages and if I were to retire now, I would walk straight into a lecture hall with a chalk (marker) in my hand”.

This Kaya FM fan, admits that listening to the radio keeps him in touch with the pulse of the current affairs. He unwinds by listening to contemporary jazz, the sounds of Jonas Gwangwa. He opines that Cape Town remains his favourite holiday destination, and that what he treasures the most in his life are the medals he has been recognised with by the SAAF.

Asked what the future holds, he said: “The future looks bright for South Africa, those who say otherwise must take time and visit other countries. In the meantime, do your work and you won’t be forced to remain stagnant”.


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