Home and Away: Lyndall Shope-Mafole

2012-01-14 09:46

Cradled from birth by the liberation movement, Lyndall Shope-Mafole (54), who left the ANC in 2008 to become a founder member of Cope, where she is now a general secretary, is not embarrassed to praise her former political party.

“Being part of the main liberation movement in Africa was an honour,” says this former ANC national executive member from the pedigreed ANC “family” stock.

Shope-Mafole is sitting on the verandah of her house in Centurion, which she shares with her mother Gertrude Shope, an ANC veteran who still wears her black, green and gold colours on her sleeve.

We are looking at a photo of a young ­Shope-Mafole, shot in 1971 in Tanzania. Just 13 at the time, she stands in a stiff, military pose in the uniform of the ANC’s Young Pioneers – the party’s wing for children.

For Shope-Mafole, it’s the good memories that remain etched in her mind: “I am no longer in the ANC but my roots are in the ANC.”

As a child she knew no other life. Born in Johannesburg, she lived with her aunt in Zimbabwe because her parents, Gertrude and Mark Shope, had already fled into exile. They were eventually reconciled and by the time Shope-Mafole was snapped in her Young Pioneers uniform in Tanzania, the family had lived in both Botswana and the Czech Republic, then called Czechoslovakia.

One word that described the ANC better than any other, she says, was “discipline”.

“It was a society of great discipline.”

There were rules for everything and no opportunity to learn went unused – whether the ‘lesson’ was about punctuality, studying hard or showing respect to elders.

Even on the day that Cope was launched, in Bloemfontein in 2008, she had to curb her irritation when the inaugural congress of her new party failed to start on time. “That was always the thing that OR (Tambo) taught us. He was obsessive about timekeeping,” she was reported as saying at the time.

The same attitude applied to education.

“You were forced to study,” said Shope-Mafole who holds a masters degree in telecommunications from Cuba.

The priority for exiled ANC members was to prepare properly and selflessly for the liberation of South Africa: everything they did was supposed to reflect that.

“You were told to think about the people at home every time you did something. Oliver Tambo and Duma Nokwe (former ANC secretary general) would say ‘remember when you’re studying you’re doing that for the millions at home’.”

Shope-Mafole still keeps a cupboard in her house filled with ANC paraphernalia such as T-shirts and caps. Group photographs of parliamentarians and Gauteng legislature members who were once her party colleagues, still adorn the walls.

She and her two siblings, sister Thaninga Shope-Linney (currently South Africa’s ambassador to Gabon) and brother Lenin Shope (currently South African High Commissioner to Botswana), were among the few children in the ANC camps in Tanzania.

Her father insisted that they sit in on meetings and make tea for the elders. The children also had other organisational responsibilities.

As the ANC celebrates its 100th anniversary, Shope-Mafole takes stock of the progress the party she grew up in has made.

“The ANC might be the oldest liberation movement but it’s not necessarily the most experienced. It’s still a baby in terms of governance,” she says. 

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