Tribute to brave Ntombi Kayi One

2015-10-08 06:00


Ntombi Yoko will be missed.

Ntombi Yoko will be missed.

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It was with sadness and shock that I accepted the news of the demise of one of the most fearless women to emerge in the aftermath of the Aids epidemic in Gugulethu and South Africa.

Ntombi Yoko’s name may not resonate with many people now or outside of the struggle for accepting one’s fate after contracting Hiv/Aids in the late 90’s. But for some, including the congregants of the JL Zwane Memorial Presbyterian Church in NY2, Gugulethu, Ntombi was a real person who came to epitomise the ravages of the disease in a society scarred by massive denial and stigmatisation of sufferers. She emerged strong.

Led by the formidable and equally fearless Reverend Dr Sphiwo Xhaphile, that church was the only place where sufferers received recognition for ‘outing’ themselves after contracting the disease.

Ntombi was was one of these. They told their stories of rejection by mothers, absent fathers-who used this as an excuse for continued isolation from their own children- brothers, sisters or offspring alike.

It was in this church that they found refuge, relief, acceptance, encouragement and counselling away from a vindictive and unforgiving society.

It was in the early 2000’s and I lived just down the street from the building. City Vision chronicled most of their stories. The endless candlelit ceremonies come to mind. The tears, the hugs, the songs of fear of the known but unpredictable demise, flood the memory. The other harsh reality though, was that two hours later, after the service, the affected would have no option but to step outside of the comfort zone of the church and congregation and face a cruel world on their own.

They trudged on, without any promise of a cure or relief from their suffering. Medically, Bactrim offered the promise of temporary relief. Nothing else. The victims fell in numbers. Still, those who lived another day found solace in the church. Its not her story alone, but that of many others. To have lived through this turmoil decades later, means a character of spirit and the will to live.

A qualified school teacher, Ntombi kayi-one was born on 5 May 1963. She has spent almost all her life in her birthplace of Gugulethu.

After completing her teacher training studies at the Cape College, she taught at Sakumlandela Primary School for a decade. After contracting Aids, and due to the pressures of stigmatisation, she decided to quit teaching. She found work to host a programme called “Positive living with HIV/Aids and TB” on community station Bush Radio. Ntombi later became a motivational speaker and counsellor, helping many a sufferer to accept their fate and to try to live a healthy lifestyle.

Through her work, she toured other African countries like Tanzania, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, learning extensively about the disease and about how sufferers there survived.

After Bush Radio, she worked at Sobambisana, Bonga and Xolani Primary Schools as Elsen teacher until she succumbed to an opportunistic respiratory illness on 29 September. Ntombi leaves behind both her parents, her children Zwelakhe and Indira, his brothers and sisters, including a host of other relatives. Her funeral service will take place on Saturday at the Gugulethu CPOA

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