Be fair to Madiba, says MaMbeki

Looking out for Madiba: Epainette Mbeki is upset by disputes in the Mandela family. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Looking out for Madiba: Epainette Mbeki is upset by disputes in the Mandela family. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

ANC stalwart Epainette Mbeki, commonly known as MaMbeki, has urged the family of ailing statesman Nelson Mandela to come to terms with his mortality and let him go.

Mbeki, mother of former president Thabo Mbeki, told the Mail & Guardian in an interview this week that she thought he was suffering too much. 

Speaking from her modest home in Dutywa, just across the Mbhashe River and about 30 minutes drive from the ancestral Mandela home of Qunu, the 97-year-old Mbeki said she had been monitoring reports of Mandela's medical condition since the day he was admitted to the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria with a recurring lung infection more than three weeks ago.

"I think they should accept that Madiba is not young any more and that he is very ill," the outspoken Mbeki said. "They should let him go. He has done his bit. It is not pleasant to see him in such a state and suffering this much.

"Madiba belongs to all of us. He is a friend of mine and a fellow comrade. To the young generation, he is a father to them. Naturally, everybody is hurt by his ill-health. But, while we would like him to live longer, personally I think that's not fair to him."

The news of Mandela's condition has been met with grave concern in and around Qunu, where he grew up before he joined the ANC and dedicated his life to fighting apartheid.

Mbeki, who still has a razor-sharp mind and wit, said she was deeply concerned by reported ongoing disputes among the Mandela children, saying that did not sit well with her as a parent.

Mandela's children held a meeting on Tuesday in Qunu to inform the Thembu clan elders about the former president's medical condition. The meeting also discussed the need for the reburial of Mandela's three children by Evelyn, his first wife.

A few years ago, Chief Mandla Mandela exhumed the three bodies that were buried at Qunu and reburied them at Mveso, apparently without proper consultation with the Thembu elders. The bodies of his father, Makgatho, his aunt Makaziwe, who died in 1948 at only nine months, and his uncle, Thembekile, who was killed in a car accident in 1969, were moved to his Mvezo traditional authority.

The meeting resolved that their remains should be reburied in Qunu.

"Madiba won't be impressed by this family squabbles," said Mbeki. "I wish they could follow his example, sit together and discuss the problem until they find a solution or reach a consensus."

MaMbeki, who runs a grocery store, said Mandela, son of a paramount chief of the Thembu, represented a legacy that should be emulated by everybody who valued democracy, justice and human dignity.

"He has always been a principled and disciplined man. He spent his life dedicated to the struggle and the welfare of others. I am not surprised that everybody claims him, from the DA [Democratic Alliance], Cope [Congress of the People] and the UDM [United Democratic Movement]. They are claiming him as an individual for what he did for everybody and humanity."

 
Charles Molele

Charles Molele

Charles Molele is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. Charles joined the paper in 2011. He has covered general news, court and politics for the past 19 years, and also worked as a senior reporter for the Saturday Star, Sunday World, ThisDay, Sunday Times and is former politics editor of the New Age. Charles's other career highlights include covering Kenya's violent general elections (2007/08), Zimbabwe’s sham general elections (2008), Mozambique's food riots (2010) and the historic re-election of US President Barack Obama (2012). Read more from Charles Molele

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