Dutywa,Eastern Cape-United Nations Director for Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has paid tribute to struggle stalwart Mama Epainette Mbeki, mother of former South African president Thabo Mbeki who passed away on Saturday.
She described MaMbeki as a freedom fighter and a liberator in her own right. Mlambo-Ngcuka,a former vice president to Thabo Mbeki also commended her for her selfless dedication to serve the women, youth and children of South Africa.
She says she will always remember MaMbeki through a special encounter she had when herself and Thoko Didiza visited MaMbeki in iDutywa to convince her to celebrate her 90th birthday but MaMbeki chose rather to talk about the work she was doing with women and her love for education.
Mlambo-Ngcuka has called upon people to emulate MaMbeki and continue to uplift impoverished communities. The 98-year-old Mbeki matriarch passed away having been admitted to an East London hospital for observation towards the end of May after experiencing respiratory problems.
Epainette Mbeki was born in February 1916 in Mangoloaneng at Mount Fletcher, in the Eastern Cape. She taught at the Taylor Street Secondary School after being educated at the Mariazell Mission, the Lovedale Teachers college and graduating from the Adams College in Durban.
She taught with Govan Mbeki, whom she later married. In 1937, Epainette Mbeki became the second black woman to join the Communist Party of SA, after Josie Palmer. She then became an active member of the liberation movement in Durban.
She married Govan in 1940 and moved to the Transkei where the family set up a trading store in the Idutywa district. The store earned the family a living and was run by Epainette Mbeki after her husband became involved in national politics. The couple had four children, Linda, Thabo, Moeletsi and Jama. She raised them and contributed to her husband’s newspaper, Inkundla ya Bantu.