Lessons from the life and funeral of MaMbeki

2014-06-17 10:36

In truth and grace lies the true reflection of humanity, which should in all its acts be embodied by strong convictions of humility. This is the lesson from the life of MaMbeki as she rests peacefully. Truth must be spoken and truth should be lived, yet in doing so; one should never assume arrogance and superiority, they must remain graceful. This is what Mambeki’s life was all about. Having many opportunities (given that her two sons stayed in Gauteng suburbs) to escape the rural life, she made a decision to remain rooted within the community of Ngcingwane.

MaMbeki taught us the value of consciousness, that despite expectations – one must remain steadfast in what they believe in. For if we are too easily swayed from our convictions, we risk not accomplishing our desired goals for a better society. MaMbeki defied conventional wisdom that says we gain fulfilment through societal upward mobility that necessitates our removal from rural life to urban areas. Her insistence to remain in Ngcingwane can be seen as a lesson for development thinking in our country – develop people where they are and in their own terms.

Perhaps the urbanisation craze that removes people from their ancestral connections and deprives people the opportunity to till their own land and maintain strong communal bonds can be finally challenged. The loneliness of the city life can be too much a burden to bear, the constructed sophistry of the city life can be too pressuring on people to become pretentious and attend to pleasing people’s expectations than to lead humanly enriching lives.

MaMbeki reminded us that to remove a shining light and live the village in darkness only does more harm to the success prospects of the village. Instead, by so doing you recycle people left behind into the gyre of poverty, destitution and hopelessness. MaMbeki chose to remain in Ngcingwane to stand as a beacon of hope, as inspiration for the community and as a tireless contributor into the development of her village. With her wit, sharpened by years of activism and intellectual engagement with text and society – she became a guiding compass that offered advice and vision for those within her reach.

The impact of MaMbeki’s decision to remain in Ngcingwane was brought to life during her funeral when Mama Novamile Mnyatheli of the Khanyisa project reminisced about her encounters with this fine and precious jewel that lived to see different layers of generations in our country. Her wit, complemented by wisdom and lifelong experiences ensured that she was a well moulded mentor for those in her midst. MaMbeki was accessible; anyone who wanted to meet her could simply take a drive to Ngcingwane to interact with her rich thoughts.

Even her funeral was accessible as I watched with admiration the translation of isiXhosa to English and vice versa. This ensured that those not proficient in English or isiXhosa did not go home having not heard much of the proceedings. The people of Ngcingwane were not restricted not to attend; the mention of VIPs seemed to be a formality than a system to exclude others from attending. The ordinariness of MaMbeki’s life was showcased when the funeral proceedings had to be brought to a halt due to the threat of strong winds, which could have easily led to a disaster. As a precautionary measure people were evacuated. Many people on social media were outraged by the carelessness of those that erected the tent to not ensure its safety. Their outrage is understandable, yet it stems from a position of privilege – that a tent that was to house a former president and current deputy president and other imminent people should have been safer.

Well, in truth, ordinary South Africans deal with such incidents of tents and ensuing panics every weekend they host events on windy days. Clearly, MaMbeki has taught us the value to not visit ordinary people and live amongst them for electioneering purposes but to be part of their daily struggles. I am sure she would not have approved of a fancier marquee that resembles a house inside. Her ordinary living, when she had an opportunity to live comfortably in cities, appeared as if she had heeded Thabo Mbeki’s call that we should resist the temptation to have our lives defined by materialistic accumulation - as this contributes heavily on the perpetuation of corruption and cavalier lifestyles.

The last lesson to take from MaMbeki is that she personified what our constitutional democracy should mean for all South Africans. Having been the second woman to join the then Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA now SACP), she must have felt deep affection for the mass democratic movement and its structures. Yet, at a time she became dissatisfied – for whatever reasons – she made bold to state her views and criticise the ANC and its leadership. Not that she 100% agreed with the ANC even when her son was the president.

Having been part of the ruling party’s liberation movement does not automatically mean that one should die a member of the party. This means that when foresight prevails, when stresses of the party become too hard to bear, it is possible to develop contrary views instead of becoming dogmatic and defending the party even when it errs to a point that defeats logic. MaMbeki has taught us that in order to build a thriving democracy we must remain assertive and critical of those who lead us.

MaMbeki might have gone through tragedies and agonies of losing her son and grandson during the years of apartheid and in the latter years of her life the loss of her husband, Oom Gov, and her daughter. However, she always appeared full of life, not having had her spirit dithered and withered by these experiences. This is because MaMbeki was more than a woman of substance; she lived a purpose filled life, provided leadership in her life and espoused a vision for herself and all of humanity.

May all South Africans live such a life, where contentment is derived from the simplest ways of life; where the acts of loving and uplifting others are engraved into our daily existence out of choice. Such a beautiful and dedicated life could be the key that unlocks our dream of a better world.

News24 Voices Terms & Conditions.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.