Sounds like marriage: Motlanthe says it’s heading that way

2012-03-30 00:00

DEPUTY President Kgalema Motlanthe and his long-time partner, Gugu Mtshali, appear to be heading for the altar.

Asked if marriage was on the cards yesterday, Motlanthe told The Witness: “It is heading that way”.

The deputy president was in Pietermaritzburg to attend the funeral of Mthsali’s father, well-known Imbali resident Solomon Gayi Mkhize (77), who was fondly known by locals as “Khehla”.

Mkhize died after a short illness. Motlanthe and Mtshali led the funeral procession to the graveside at Ethembeni Cemetery in Lincoln Meade and sat side by side during the service.

Speaking to The Witness at the Mkhize family home after the funeral, Motlanthe said he had been a regular visitor to the city over the years.

Mtshali was not his only link to Pietermaritzurg, he said: some of his close associates, including fellow Robben Islander Sithembiso Zimu (a relative of Mtshali), Msunduzi chief whip Truman Magubane and the late Harry Gwala lived here.

Motlanthe and Magubane shared a cell on Robben Island for 10 years.

Zimu and Magubane were among the political luminaries who attended yesterday’s funeral, along with Mtshali’s one-time boss, former ANC treasurer-general Mendi Msimang.

The deputy president often attended official functions alone as he was in the process of a divorce, although it was generally known that he and Mtshali were an item.

In November last year Mtshali began accompanying the deputy president publicly to official functions as his companion.

She was at his side when he welcomed Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla to the presidential guest house in Pretoria and accompanied him on trips abroad.

This year she was at his side on the red carpet for the opening of Parliament and yesterday he supported her at her father’s funeral.

Also among the mourners yesterday were Deputy Minister for Higher Education Hlengiwe Mkhize and her Correctional Services counterpart, Ngoako Ramathlodi.

South African National Civics Organisation president Dumisani Mthalane said the Mkhize family were struggle stalwarts and he was aware that Motlanthe had known them for a long time.

ANC provincial executive committee members were unable to attend and asked the executive of the Moses Mabhida region to represent them. Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela and members of his council were also at the funeral

Mtshali’s parents married in 1959. Her mother Catherine — from the well-known Shange family — died in 2007.

The Mkhizes moved to Imbali in 1965. They were among the first families to move to the township. Before his retirement Mkhize had worked for Ijuba Breweries as a vehicle despatch supervisor.

Fifteen years ago he became blind after an unsuccessful eye operation. According to the family his condition did not deter him from living a full and normal life. He made his own food and moved about the house freely.

He kept in touch with his children, including Mtshali, by phone and is described as having his ear to the phone or to the radio at any one time.

His children remember him with great love for the strength of character he showed and for keeping the family together when their mother was detained without trial for nearly two years in 1976.

Mkhize leaves his daughter Gugu and sons Thami and Jabulani.

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