MaMbeki lived humbly among her people

2014-06-08 15:00

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Struggle stalwart Epainette Mbeki, who died at the age of 98 at East London’s St Dominic’s ­Hospital yesterday morning, has been hailed as a dedicated community builder.

MaMbeki, as she was affectionately known, lived her life as an ordinary woman among the rural folk of Ngcingwana village in Dutywa even as her son, Thabo, ascended to the presidency.

Wandile Nceba, a former youth activist in Dutywa, said MaMbeki was very passionate about young people.

“She always wanted to uplift her community. We lost a lot as young people. She was a nation builder. We have lost a stalwart in her. She was so full of life and gave us lots of advice and inspiration,” Nceba said.

A police officer who has looked after MaMbeki over the years, but who asked not to be named because he was not allowed to speak to the media, said the struggle stalwart was a very humble human being.

“MaMbeki was very down to earth. She did not like fancy things. She was a very peaceful person who liked to help others. She would chat to everybody. Even when her son was president, she still enjoyed living a normal life like everyone in the village.” MaMbeki was admitted to hospital last week after complaining that she was struggling to breathe.

A neighbour in Ngcingwana, Luyanda Matikinca, said she was a warm person who was very close to her neighbours.

“MaMbeki was very sweet. I remember when she used to run her spaza shop. As young boys, we would buy sweets at the shop, but some of us would not have money, so she would give us sweets for free. She was such an angel. She did not like to see people suffer,” Matikinca said.

MaMbeki was known for her outspokenness. When her son was recalled as president in 2008, she joined the Congress of the People and slammed the ANC for betraying its roots.

In May, MaMbeki welcomed former ANC Youth League ­leader and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) president Julius ­Malema to her home in Dutywa.

After a brief meeting, MaMbeki?–?who was married to late former struggle hero Govan Mbeki?–?said she forgave Malema for the things he had said about her son before he was recalled.

She joked that she would have voted for the EFF if she was still young.

Another neighbour in Ngcingwana, Nosisa Mzimkhulu, said: “She loved people. She attended community meetings and was always interested in what was happening in the ­village. She was very passionate about young people and their education. She supported us as women in the village by ­creating job opportunities for us and taught us how to be independent as women. I will miss her laughter,” she said.

Epainette Mbeki (née Moerane) was born in February 1916 in Mangoloaneng in the Mount Fletcher district of Transkei.

She attended Mariazell Mission before studying at Lovedale Teachers’ College and graduated as a secondary school ­teacher from Adams College in Durban. She obtained a teaching post at Taylor Street Secondary School and married fellow teacher, Mbeki.

The Communist Party of SA (CPSA) recruited her in 1937 making her only the second black woman to join the CPSA after Josie Palmer (Mphama).

She volunteered to work for the Child Welfare Organisation, helped to organise a rent boycott, worked as an agent for Inkululeko, the CPSA newspaper, and ran the party’s night school.

She and Mbeki obtained a concession to set up a trading store in Mbewuleni in the Dutywa district, which was the ­family’s livelihood. MaMbeki ran the store and raised her four children?–?Linda, Thabo, Moeletsi and Jama?–?while contributing to her husband’s newspaper, Inkundla Ya Bantu, and being an active member of the Zenzele movement, of which she was recording secretary for many years. She was also a founding member of the National African Chamber of Commerce.

MaMbeki’s funeral will take place at the family home in ­Ngcingwana, Dutywa, next Saturday.

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