Last Saturday saw the passing of Epainette Nomaka Mbeki, mother to former President, Thabo Mbeki. Epainette, affectionately referred to as ‘Piny’ by friends and family, and ‘MaMbeki’ by her community, was both a social and political activist, choosing to live amongst the people and continuing to fight for the upliftment of the poorest of the poor through her various community projects.
Daughter to successful peasant farmers, and wife to the famous Govan Mbeki, Epainette used both her her financial and political resources to make a real difference to the lives of the people in her community in the Eastern Cape. Prior to her passing she was the patron of a successful community farming project, as well as helping to run the craft and beadwork co-operative, Khanyisa. A teacher by training Epainette worked tirelessly to bring secondary schooling to her district, and her efforts were rewarded with the establishment of the Nobeko Mbeki Secondary School, for which she was the patron. She was also involved in the establishment of an AIDS hospice at Mbewuleni, and a children’s home at Komga, in the Eastern Cape.
For her work Epainette was honoured with numerous accolades including the Community Builder of the Year Award; the King Cetshwayo African Image Award; and the Eastern Cape Arts and Culture Award for the Khanyisa project. In 2012, Rhodes University conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa on Epainette, and in 2006 the South African Government conferred the Order of the Baobab in Gold on Epainette for her “exceptional contribution to the economic upliftment of the underprivileged communities of the Eastern Cape and her commitment to the fight against apartheid.”
We would like to extend our heartfelt sympathies to the Mbeki family and say a massive thank you to MaMbeki for her contribution to South African society. Very few people get to touch as many lives as this great woman did, and we know that she will be sorely missed by her neighbors, friends and family.
Photograph courtesy of timeslive.co.za