The soul of a doting mother

2017-03-12 06:01
Bathabile Dlamini.

Bathabile Dlamini.

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I was first introduced to Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini through her spokesperson, Lumka Oliphant, in Bloemfontein early last year.

Oliphant was incensed that, during the launch of the ANC Young Women’s Desk, I had tweeted a picture of empty seats at the venue.

The young women smelt the arrival of lunch – to be fair, it was supper at that stage – and abandoned the keynote speech by the president of the ANC Women’s League, Dlamini.

Having waited patiently for most of the day to get face-time with Dlamini, Oliphant summoned the minister at about 21:00 and said something to the effect of: “This one wants to speak to you. She is the one who tweeted that the seats were empty.”

Dlamini gave me a scathing look before pressing her lips together – as if to swallow something more brutal than what she ended up saying, in isiZulu: “We are used to the agenda of the media. It won’t bring us down.”

I stood there awkwardly and looked around the room for some support, which I found in the form of her daughter, Skhu.

“Mama, this is S’the. She is the journalist who stayed with us at night during the #FeesMustFall movement when the police and private security came,” Skhu said.

I saw my in and quickly greeted the minister: “Sawubona, Ma.”

Skhu’s intervention was successful and Dlamini appeared to forgive my “sins” when she granted me the interview.

I get the sense that she is the kind of parent who allows her children to wrap her around their little fingers.

On one occasion, I ran into her at St George’s Hotel in Cape Town during a sitting of the ANC’s national executive committee.

As had become common practice when she saw me, she leaned over and greeted me: “Sawubona, ndodakazi.”

I asked how Skhu was doing with her studies at Stellenbosch University.

She sighed and said: “She is fine, but she must stay there, uyangihlupha, when she is not at school. She must rather study forever.”

Dlamini may joke that Skhu should remain a healthy distance away at school, but it’s clear that she doesn’t mean it.

Her daughter has been Dlamini’s plus-one at the past two state of the nation addresses.

On a different occasion, again at St George’s, I found her looking over some ANC clothing. “Sawubona, ma,” I greeted.

She gave me her trademark look of suspicion, which suggests that what she really wants to say is: “What does this peddler of white monopoly capital want from me now?”

But then she grabbed my hand and led me away from the clothing to a book stall.

“No. Young women need to read. You must get a book,” she said.

Read more on:    ancwl  |  bathabile dlamini  |  fees must fall  |  protests

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