Epainette Mbeki: I’d vote for EFF if I was still young

2014-01-19 14:00

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Former president Thabo Mbeki’s mother, Epainette, is a big fan of Julius Malema’s confidence and his willingness to speak out about controversial issues.

The 97-year-old says she would have voted for Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in this year’s elections if she was younger.

MaMbeki, as she is fondly known, says it is “unfortunate” that Malema is sometimes “disrespectful of others”.

“But I think he does so because of his passion and for a certain purpose,” she said.

She added that the EFF would take away many young voters from the ANC in this year’s elections.

But her vote is going to the Congress of the People, which she joined after her son was recalled and humiliated by the ANC in 2008.

City Press met MaMbeki, who turns 98 on February 16, at her Ngcingwana home near Dutywa in the Eastern Cape.

She would not be drawn on her eldest son’s comments about tribalism this week.

But she did say that President Jacob Zuma was the mouthpiece of a powerful clique running the country.

MaMbeki said the Nkandla scandal was unfortunate and should have been avoided.

“I personally have nothing against Zuma. I regard him as my son. Most of the time, he is not responsible for what is happening around him. He is a mouthpiece of a powerful clique running the country.

“There is this clique, but I wouldn’t say who is in it. It’s a few people running the country, so it is not proper,” she said.

The former teacher is a passionate advocate for the rights of elderly people.

“We [old people] only exist to be given pensions and to vote. Otherwise, we are neglected. We have no outlet to express our views. The ordinary people at grass-roots level have also been neglected under the new democratic dispensation as more focus is placed on the elite in this country.”

But MaMbeki is not only preoccupied with politics. She is warm and funny, cracking jokes and making fun of herself.

“What do you want from an old crock like me? Do I still have anything logical to say being as old as I am?” she laughed.

She has run a spaza shop for some years now although she now rents it out and keeps busy with community work.

MaMbeki runs a women’s bead and sewing programme.

“I can say my life still belongs to the people. People come here early in the mornings to ask for my advice and counsel, which I give wholeheartedly.”

Her sitting room is comfortable, furnished with old brown sofas, paintings and other works?of art –?and a big picture of Thabo Mbeki.

Her relationship with her two surviving children, Thabo and his brother, Moeletsi, is much like any mother’s with her sons.

“They seldom speak to me or call me. They are grown men. They are very busy and I am also busy. But they always call every now and then when they want advice from their mother,” she said.

MaMbeki shares her home with a helper and pays all her bills herself.

“I make my own means. I don’t want to depend on anybody,” she said.

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