Leadership in Perilous Times

Leadership in Perilous Times

University of Zululand (UNIZULU) students were offered some pearls of wisdom regarding leadership skills and qualities by Advocate Thembi Bokako during a recent student webinar titled “Leadership in Perilous Times”.

Adv. Bokako, who is an alumna of the university, was invited as the guest speaker.

Outlining the purpose of the day, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Institutional Support Professor Sipho Seepe said universities had long suffered the absence of intellectual engagements. Instead, there had been engagements of a different kind, which had not done our institutions any good.

He went on to emphasise that we need to re-centre the purpose of universities. Borrowing from the words of former deputy chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who recently delivered a lecture at UNIZULU, Prof Seepe said: “Justice Moseneke was quick to point out that the University of Zululand has produced alumni in the legal profession. This university has produced no less than three chief justices that have graced the Constitutional Court. With that, you are talking about a university that has a proud history. It will be a shame to erase that.”

Prof Seepe cautioned the students that “When in Perilous times we always put our best foot forward.”

Adv. Bokako started by stating why she joined UNIZULU, sharing that she was drawn by the fact that the institution was a hub of knowledge.

To paint an even clearer picture of the topic she was to dissect, she took to defining the word parlous. She said it referred to a challenging time, times of uncertainty or awkward times.

In her opinion, times of uncertainty are true tests of leadership. “You do not have to change as a leader, but what ought to change is your method; your methodology in having to deal with the situations; the ideas of how do I rise above the perilous times. Perilous times come and go. The leader ought to be relevant to address the current situation,” Adv. Bokako said.

She recalled how when she became SRC President in the university there was an aspect of patriarchy because it seemed taboo that a woman could be in a position to lead. She had to deal with those stereotypes. She did not have the physical capacity of having to change the mindsets of people but what she had to do was to remain herself. She had to stick to the values that she knew.  She said what makes a great leader is their vision. When the vision is clearly illustrated to the leader’s team members, it becomes easy for the members to run with it, even in the absence of the leader.

“As a leader you need to be ten hundred steps ahead of your constituency so that you see the problem when it is looming. Understand the balance of forces. It might not be the external factors that create chaos, it might just be the internal factors. Leadership is not about power but about empowerment. In whatever space you are in, lead without a title, have passion in what you do, excel in your space, be innovative in your space and share ideas. Use the university as the platform to share and to grow,” concluded Adv. Bokako.

  • Precious Shamase


Advocate Thembi Bukako, UNIZULU alumna, was the guest speaker during the recent virtual Student Conversations lecture series.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *