In Memoriam: Elizabeth Dlamini

On January 1, 2000 Carol Batrus traveled to a remote Zulu village to launch a joint community development /environmental awareness /land rehabilitation project for The WILD Foundation in the community surrounding the historic battlefield of Isandlwana in South Africa. During her 2 ½ year stay, Carol worked closely with a local tribal member, Miss Elizabeth Dlamini.  Carol’s final goodbye to her dear friend and colleague follows.

Click here to learn more information about the Zulu Village project or read Carol’s book about her time living in the village, When Elephant’s Fly, Fulcrum Publishing, 2005.

In Memoriam

Elizabeth Dlamini

Miss Elizabeth Dlamini was a remarkable woman. She was born in a mud hut in the Zulu tribal area of South Africa where she lived her entire life. Her education was a product of her own vision, ambition, and tenacity.  In addition to serving as the tribal secretary for over 20 years, she was a skilled entrepreneur.  She sewed clothes, made beer, baked bread, and created craft work all for sale to support her mother, her three children, and various family members.  A born feminist, Miss Dlamini, despite severe cultural pressure, never married. All she would say when asked, “men are not much use.”

Our relationship began in January 2000. I had just arrived in Isandlwana to launch a community development project. She was selected to work with me with the goal of having her take over managing the project after my two year commitment. At first she was understandably shy and hesitant to share information. As we got to know each other she acted as my mentor and guide to steer me through the maze of Zulu politics and culture.

Carol Batrus & Miss D

In 2001 Elizabeth was selected to attend a special program at Shenandoah University in Virginia that trained leaders from under-developed countries in leadership skill, language and technology. She had never lived with electricity, a phone or running water, never seen a plane or traveled more than a few hundred miles from home. Two months after her departure she returned to South Africa wearing a seersucker business suit, carrying a notebook computer over her shoulder and a book bag over her arm.  Time travel does exist.  Elizabeth traveled two centuries forward in time. Her experiences changed the destiny of the Mangwe-Buthanani tribal women. She trained them in economically sustainable activities, acted as a role model and rose above the ridicule directed at her from tribal members who believed she was overstepping the boundaries of her position and gender.

Elizabeth’s innate wisdom, keen skills of observation and no nonsense approach to life nourished my hope for a better future. In any culture she would have been a force of nature. In her culture, where women were to be seen and not heard, be dependent and subservient to their husbands, and stay out of community affairs she was extraordinary. Many lives are better because she existed, mine especially. Elizabeth, you will be missed.

Garden training workshop at the Zulu Village Project

Natural fence & water carriers

4 Comments (Post Comment)
All at Edupeg says:

Shirley, Irma, Khule and myself all grew to care for and respect Elizabeth, and we all learnt from her quiet ways, her gentle dignity and her eternal patience.

May she rest in peace.

Liz and all at Edupeg

Kat Haber says:

She was indeed a hero! May the seeds of respect for the wild, she so dearly loved, grow into many more heros, further advancing Isandlwana!

Elizabeth, I will forever be grateful for your efforts in connecting the boy’s soccer team and being guardians for Isandlwana’s orchard. You made miracles daily. You will be missed.

Wilna Botha says:

Many thanks to Carol for this beautiful tribute to Elizabeth Dlamini, and for the stunning photographs that have transported me right back to Isandlwana. As Africa!Ignite, we have worked with Elizabeth over the last few years, but she was already sickly and I am sad now that I did not know this history, to have understood better what an extraordinary woman she was and how far she had came in her own development. For me, Zulu women (like women in countries across the world) are the strong glue that holds society together. And Elizabeth was one of those strong woman. It is probably fitting that Carol wrote her tribute on 9 August, SA’s Women’s Day and the anniversary of the women’s march to protest against pass laws in 1956! Wilna, Africa!Ignite

Pat Stubbs says:

Nicely done, Carol. I am sure Elizabeth would have been pleased to know of your wonderful tribute to her. She was a remarkable person and no doubt was a role model to many of the young women in the village.

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