Obituary: MK veteran, former Msunduzi official Jean Matobako

2011-01-13 00:00

MKHONTO weSizwe veteran Nompumelelo “Jean” Matobako-Magubane (49) died last Friday after a short illness.

She was the eldest daughter of the well known liberation struggle family — the Magubanes of Sobantu Village. Her father Truman Magubane, currently the chief whip in the Msunduzi Municipality, served over 23 years on Robben Island. Her mother Mavis was detained without trial by the security police on several occasions.

Matobako went into exile to join MK in the early 1980s when she was 21. She was accompanied by her younger sister Nkonzo, who was 17 at the time. Later her brother Phumlani (Romeo) also joined MK and followed them into exile while her second brother Mlungisi was imprisoned in 1987 and joined his father on Robben Island.

The sisters received military training in Swaziland, Mozambique and Angola. Matobako’s commanding officers included President Jacob Zuma, Deputy Minister for International Relations Ebrahim Ebrahim and Sue Rabkin.

According to Nkonzo her sister helped lay the basis for Operation Butterfly, which saw the banned ANC set up underground units in the country. The ANC had arranged for Matobako to get Swazi citizenship and she was able to travel in and out of South Africa without being caught by the security police. By 1985 Matobako was sent to the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Tanzania to complete her education.

Her MK operative names were Sizakele and Jean Alexandra. In 1987 she was awarded a scholarship to study Computer Science in the Soviet Union. While there she met her husband Mokhethi, who currently works for the Department of Correctional Services in Pietermaritzburg.

She returned to South Africa after the ANC was unbanned in 1990 and completed her degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where she studied business information systems. Matobako then joined the South African Defence Force and worked in the office of the Chief of Defence.

She was senior executive manager for integrated planning at Msunduzi Municipality until 2008. Staff who worked with her said she was committed to the city. A colleague who did not want to be named said she proposed a very workable system to cap overtime, but those who benefited from fleecing the system blocked its implementation.

Last year Matobako was elected secretary of the Mkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) for the Moses Mabhida region. MKMVA provincial chairperson Themba Mavundla said he first met Matabako in Tanzania when he was sick with malaria. The sisters did voluntary work at the local hospital in their spare time. “I could not eat and Sizakele — as I knew her then — went out of her way to get me amasi and other foods that I could keep down. I did not know that this angel of mercy was not only from my hometown but from the famous Magubane family. I only found out who she was when we all returned from exile,” he said

Matobako leaves her husband, two children, Matshwanelo (18) and Katlego (14), her parents, two brothers and three sisters. Her funeral is on Sunday at 9 am at the Sobantu Stadium. A memorial service is to be held at the City Hall today at 4pm.

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