Rape survivor builds healing space for women

Mbali Dlamini’s sacred lands of hope in Carletonville.

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Across the globe a war is on the go. A brutal war. A senseless, spiteful war. A war as old as humanity itself. A war on the bodies of women.

Over the past five decades, the dynamics of the battlefield have slowly changed. No longer are those on the receiving end of the vicious collusion of patriarchy and misogyny prepared to have their lives violated and left for dead without justice against its perpetrators being served.

The fight back has, in recent years, gathered freight-train momentum. Through global social media awareness campaigns such as the #metoo movement the feminist vision of a world free from the brutalisation of women is finally becoming a living, breathing reality.


In 2007, at just twenty three and only a few years after completing her Bachelor’s Degree, on what for many would have been a joyous Christmas afternoon, Mbali Dlamini was raped.

As one who had always found solace in writing, a few days later, she wrote a poem heart-breaking in its expression of what happened that day, yet filled with impossible hope. The poem was titled: I Rise. The most potent of its verses:

“My pain, my suffering is
What we’re burying today
But my spirit lives on
And as I soar towards a new day
New horizons, new memories await”

Indeed, Mbali followed through on the promise she made to herself, going on to build a memorable career in marketing & advertising. She rose through the ranks over a fifteen year period where she assumed senior marketing positions for some of the country’s leading firms, including Ogilvy, SAB and Tiger Brands.

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Mbali Dlamini, Sakhile Mthembu and Scelo Dlamini. Photo: Funiwe Ngwenya

Sadly, her wings were unceremoniously clipped when she learnt in 2018 that she was being retrenched from a job she adored.

This was a painful time for her, but she wisely says: “Pain is a teacher. Most of us don’t like to accept that, but it’s true. It often takes a tragedy for us to realign ourselves with our true purpose, or to develop a deeper level of humility”.

Mbali was forced to dig deep. In a daring move, inspired by years living in Kenya, where she observed the benefits of farming, she and her husband gathered all their life savings, a sum of over R300 000, and dove into the South African agricultural sector. It was then that their farming business Sakred Lands, based in Carletonville, Johannesburg, was born.

On a 9 hectare square of earth the farm is home to livestock – goats, chickens, geese – and fish. They also grow vegetables – pumpkins, okra, red and yellow onions, rapeseed, jalapeno & habanero peppers and have also begun exploring herbs like coriander, mint and basil.

Mbali’s love for literature and writing as a source of healing from deep trauma has never left her. In fact, she has seamlessly managed to thread her belief in words as a source of healing into her newfound passion for farming.

Since that fateful Christmas afternoon in 2007, she has written seven books. The most recent one is a recipe book detailing the many ways in which the Moringa plant, which she processes and packages into oils, teas, capsules and powder, can be used as a healing source. The recipe book, she says “is for, giving people options of how to incorporate it in their diet – from breads, to ice-cream, to ice tea, to guacamole”.

Sakred Lands is part of a greater vision for Mbali. She plans to use her share of earth to build a healing space for women, including those who have met trauma such as hers, expanding her enterprise into a marriage between land and writing. Sakred Lands produces strictly organic food and the focus is on holistic wellness of body, mind and spirit.

Mbali’s husband, Sakhile Mthembu, is a passionate environmentalist and shares her vision for bringing healthy food and healing to the masses. Together with their business partner, Scelo Dlamini, they’ve also established an online platform to support emerging farmers. They produce weekly newsletters titled Uqhaqho to their membership base which has reached 225 emerging farmers and is growing steadily. They’ve even received recognition from a Japanese university that’s researching the challenges faced by emerging farmers.

The Sakred Lands team, under the leadership of Mbali, prides themselves on being agile, innovative and people-centric. Mbali has recently partnered with one of Botswana’s leading holistic wellness practitioners, Joy Mogami, to bring online masterclasses to women. Their methodology is rooted in merging modern science with indigenous African principles of healing. As a farmer, this aligns perfectly with Sakred Lands’ vision to bring holistic healing.

Mbali with one of the books she has written. Photo: Funiwe Ngwenya

Mbali is a passionate Pan Africanist who has travelled the length and breadth of this continent, visiting more than 20 African countries to date. She’s also a graduate from the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute.

Her dream is for Sakred Lands to grow into the rest of the continent, creating jobs and empowering women from all spheres of life. This is beautifully summed up in one of her poems titled, My Dream for Africa:

“We have been the wretched of the earth for too long, Have cried too many tears, have fought way too many wars.

My prayer is that we may all realise the African Dream

Let the talkers talk, the thinkers think, and the dreamers dream

Talk honestly, reflectively about the real reason we are here

Dream up a reality more beautiful than our painful past or wildest imaginings

Dream up a plan so solid it will carry us safely to the promised land of shared prosperity”.

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