Priceless gift: South Africa mourns Epainette Mbeki

President Jacob Zuma said words were not enough to express the sad loss. “We wish to express, on behalf of government and all South Africans, our deepest condolences and the nation’s solidarity with the Mbeki family at this hour,” he said in a statement. “May her soul rest in eternal peace.” 

Epainette Mbeki died at the age of 98 at the Life St Dominic’s Hospital in East London on Saturday morning. She was admitted to hospital on May 25 with a chest infection and heart problem. 

The Mbeki family said her funeral would be held at the family home in Ngcingwane, Idutywa, Eastern Cape on Saturday June 14. 

The ANC expressed sadness following MaMbeki’s death. “Her passing has made South Africa poorer given her long history of activism and her contribution in the struggle against apartheid,” spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said. “The collective of the ANC bows its head in honouring our mother, our stalwart and heroine.” 

Epainette Mbeki was the mother of former president Thabo Mbeki and the wife of the late ANC and SA Communist Party stalwart Govan Mbeki. 

Kodwa said: “During the absence of our stalwart Govan Mbeki due to incarceration and hiding from the police MaMbeki had to single handedly raise their kids who later joined the liberation struggle and made a sterling contribution in the struggle.” 

The ANC in the Eastern Cape also sent its condolences. “MaMbeki is one of the struggle stalwarts who made an immense contribution towards bringing life and humanity to the new South Africa and its people,” provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane said. 

The Democratic Alliance sent its condolences to the Mbeki family, the communities of the Idutywa district and all those who knew her. “MaMbeki will be remembered for her dedication to community development through the establishment of an Aids hospice and various support initiatives for farmers in the Eastern Cape’s Idutywa district where she chose to spend most of her life,” the party said. “She will be remembered for her bravery and activism during this dark chapter in South Africa’s history.” 

The Thabo Mbeki Foundation’s board chairperson Dr Brigalia Bam said Epainette Mbeki was a humble servant of the people who would be remembered for her selfless dedication to the upliftment on the communities she served. “To gogo Epainette, we say thank you for serving as a shining example of what it means to be a servant leader and may we forever draw our inspiration from the teachings of so gentle a soul,” Bam said. 

ANC Youth League spokesperson Bandile Masuku said Mbeki was a source of inspiration. “She will always be part of the reservoir of knowledge we draw lessons from. We were blessed to have her amongst us,” Masuku said. 

National Freedom Party leader and newly appointed Deputy Science and Technology Minister Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi said Mbeki would be remembered as a teacher, community worker and entrepreneur who taught the people in the Eastern Cape how to work for themselves in order to be independent. She said Epainette Mbeki was a role model for all women. 

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande praised Epainette Mbeki for being humble. “Throughout her life, MaMbeki maintained contact and lived with and among the masses of our people, majority of who are the working class and poor especially in the countryside,” he said. “She was humble, and was never swept away by the fact that she was the mother of our second president of a democratic South Africa.” 

Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba thanked God for Epainette Mbeki’s life. “[She was] a self-giving activist, community-builder and a mother of the nation – in sum, a child of God who was blessed with long life,” he said. 

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said he often engaged with Epainette Mbeki about politics at private functions. “During the time when Thabo was president she would not shy away from directly asking me what we were doing to improve the quality of life of our people,” Holomisa said. 

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said MaMbeki would be remembered as a woman of courage, character and passion. “Her legacy in the realms of community activism, youth mobilisation and education is a priceless gift to our country,” spokesperson Danielle Melville said. – Sapa

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