As Mcebisi Skwatsha, the Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Affairs officiated at a ceremony to hand over about eight wheelchairs to the disabled in Gugulethu on Tuesday, the tragedy of the recent demise of Bishop V.V Mthini, was not lost on those present.
Bishop Mthini was supposed to have been one of the recipients of the wheelchairs that day, but had given up the ghost in the early hours of Tuesday after a lengthy battle with illness.
Days before the event, he had an arrangement with Skwatsha to also lead the sermon, but his demise brought much shock to the community at large. The ceremony was held at the Sivuyile Uniting National Baptist Church in Luyoloville, where Bishop Mthini was the incumbent prelate.
Social networks were abuzz on Tuesday morning with the announcement that the primate had died.
Skwatsha said the month of April has become notorious for South Africa since the arrival of one Jan Van Riebeck on these shores on 6 April 1652.
“In the history of our country, this month has only become troublesome for us, what with the arrival of Van Riebeck, the hanging of Solomon Mahlangu, the assassination of Comrade Chris Hani, the death of Struggle stalwarts Oliver Tambo, Mam’ Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and others.”
Paying tribute to Mthini, he said: “Arrangements were made for him to be one of the recipients of the wheelchairs, but G-d knew otherwise.
Mthini, who, he said, he first met whilst he was a minister based at the J.Z Ndaliso Memorial National Baptist Church in Gugulethu, “has reproduced himself in the many church ministers he has groomed over the years ... He has done so much for the community and the country.”
Skwatsha said it had become difficult to watch a man who had done so much suffer the way the bishop did. His visits to the 2nd Military Hospital in Wynberg had become traumatic, even for his(Skwatsha’s) security detail. He reminisced about a time when Mthini became the face of the local government elections in 2004.
“Because he commanded such respect from the community, we put his face on the ANC posters ... He was not even a member of the organisation then ... We did not regret the decision as the party won by majority vote in the elections, attracting many voters to our side.” He said, afterwards, Mthini had been the first choice for the ANC chaplaincy in the province.
“The bishop remained humble to the end.”
Skwatsha said the donation of the wheelchairs was done to show that the disabled in the community were not forgotten, and that it was done in the spirit of humility.
“People did not vote for us to drive in nice cars and houses, but to improve their lot.”
The recipients on the day included Shirleene Nomvuyo Mxenge,55, whose right leg has been amputated because of complications with diabetes, expressed gratitude for the donation.
“It will bring a change of life,” she said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Bulelani Mthini said they were happy their father’s legacy was being upheld.
“Our father first suffered a crushing car accident to his ankle in 2004 whilst he was on a campaign trail for the ANC, another one followed in 2007, which further damaged his leg, leading to steel plates being inserted.
But he has been battling a surging weight, which has led to his ribcage collapsing on his lungs and heart, making it difficult to breathe. His kidneys also gave way and he was on dialysis to oxygenate his blood.”
Bulelani said his father had been in and out of hospital so many times, they had long given up hope.
Mthini leaves behind his wife Nodudu and children Nokuthula, Bulelani, Bazoya and Khanyisa, including 13 grandchildren. His funeral service will take place at the Gugulethu Sports Complex on Friday Next week.