Queen Mother Semane Bonolo Molotlegi was a proud member of the royal family, the 150 000-strong royal Bafokeng nation, the renowned and visionary traditional community located in the North West.
Her majesty was blessed with six children. After the passing of her husband, Kgosi Edward Lebone Molotlegi and her first two sons, Kgosi Mollwane Lebone Boikanyo Molotlegi and Prince Boemo “Fosi” Molotlegi, her third son Kgosi Leruo Tshekedi Molotlegi became the king of the Bafokeng.
As the queen, and subsequently as queen mother, she played a pivotal role in helping the Bafokeng become the model community it is today. A strong advocate for the holistic development of communities, she focused on education, health, economic activities, and general wellness. Mmemogolo, “Our Great Mother”, as she was affectionately called, was vociferous against oppression, poor education and the neglect of rural development. She leaves a legacy of establishing various support and empowerment initiatives within and around Phokeng.
She founded, among others, the Bafokeng Women’s Club, Bahumagadi, a women’s’ support programme, the EPL Memorial Lecture, to commemorate the legacy of her late husband and the Thuto Thebe Educational Fund to assist indigent pupils in early childhood development.
In pursuit of her passion for education and the economic advancement of women, she served on several boards, including the Ntataise Trust for Early Childhood Development. She was the former area president for the Associated Country Women of the World in Southern Africa, patron of SA Girl Guides and National Choral Music Awards and chairperson of the Impala Bafokeng Trust and Ubuntu – Botho.
As a peace-loving person, Mmemogolo was acclaimed for settling disputes, which resulted in harmonious co-existence in the community. Her humility, compassion and insightfulness mixed with her razor-sharp wit and humour, enabled her to transcend many difficult situations. She is an emblem of much that is right with Africa today.
Mmemogolo was highly regarded and recognised both locally and internationally. She spoke at several conferences. In February 2003, she was awarded the Leading Light Tribute by the International Women’s Forum as an achiever who has enjoyed success, not through privilege, but through resilience and perseverance.
She was also conferred with an honorary doctorate by the University of the North West, in recognition of her role in nation building.
The honour was also an appreciation of her courage and determination to serve the Bafokeng people during the dark days of apartheid despite the price she had to pay. She received many more accolades.
However, the greatest tribute was the profound individual impact she had on every person she encountered. She created multiple legacies through her work and instilled values that will guide Bafokeng for generations to come.
Mmemogolo radiated inner strength and that shone through her passion for music and the arts. Her legacy is evident in the number of Bafokeng youngsters currently pursuing many genres of music and the recordings of her sweet melodious voice.
Her commitment to the Bafokeng people – rather than power – serves as an example of extraordinary leadership in Africa. Her legacy is aptly captured in her own words during an interview 32 years ago, when she noted: “I personally am not a politician neither have I any interests in politics. My concern and love are for the development of the community.”
She embodied her devotion to the development of her people until the very end.
May her beautiful soul rest in eternal peace.
Kekana is CEO of Royal Bafokeng Holdings