Former president Mbeki and his wife Zanele arrived in East London to attend the funeral of Thabo’s mother, Epainette Mbeki who passed on Saturday morning at the age of 98.
The former first family were quickly whisked away to go to Ngcingwane village in Idutywa where the near centenarian will be buried. Many dignitaries were seen arriving in Ngcingwane to pay their last respects to the wife of former freedom fighter Govan Mbeki.
MaMbeki, who was born in February 1916, trained as a teacher at Lovedale Teachers’ College, after which she taught at Taylor Street Secondary School, where she met Govan Mbeki for the first time. She later married him in 1940. They were blessed with four children, a girl, Linda and three boys Thabo, Moeletsi and Jama.
She started running the family store as soon as she got married and she became actively involved in the political life of South Africa, of which her husband became an active part. She was to become only the second woman to join the then Communist Party of South Africa, which is now the South African Communist Party. She was to become the pillar of the family when her husband, Govan was sentenced for life in the notorious Rivonia Treason Trial and immediately all their sons went into exile fearing for their lives.
At the time of her death, MaMbeki was involved in community projects where she resided and was well known for offering advice to those who sought it. She was reported to have been admitted into a private hospital for treatment of a respiratory infection.
There have been many calls of support from far and wide. President Zuma was among the first to send a message of solidarity to the Mbeki family. The parliamentary leader of the Democrati Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, also expressed his condolences to the Mbeki family on behalf of his party.
Adding their voice to the calls of the tragic loss to the republic, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said the trade union mother board took their hat off to the heroine who had set aside her long life to fight for the liberation of her people. COSATU spokesperson Frans Baleni stated that despite the fact that MaMbeki had children to raise, she still managed to do that well and still participate in the struggle against apartheid. She will be buried at the family home in Ngcingwane village, Idutywa in the Eastern Cape.