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a noble life well lived

By unknown | Feb 29, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Eric Naki

The old Xhosa saying, uwile umthi omkhulu, becomes relevant when talking about the death of one of South Africa's top businesswomen, political activist and community builders, Nomazizi Mtshotshisa.

Mtshotshisa was born in Duncan Village, East London, on March 30 1944.

She attended KwaMhlongo Primary School in New Brighton, East London, and the Methodist Primary School at Tsolo Location. Later she attended Welsh High School, also in East London, where she completed her junior certificate in 1961.

It was at Welsh that she distinguished herself in athletics. She was also introduced to politics by ANC activists such as the late Steve Tshwete, who became her mentor and "big brother" throughout her life.

After JC she left for Healdtown High School outside Fort Beaufort. After matriculating in 1963 she trained as a nurse at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth. She qualified as a registered nurse and midwife and worked in PE, and later at various public hospitals in Zeerust, Mafikeng and Johannesburg.

She went back to school, emerging with a degree. Her last job as a nurse was at Selwyn Segal Hospital in Johannesburg.

She left the nursing profession to work for the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel). By this time she had met and married trade unionist Cyril Ramaphosa.

She also registered for a law degree with Unisa. According to colleagues at Nadel she helped grow the organisation into a formidable force that contributed to the transformation of the country's judiciary. Zola Skweyiya, Social Development Minister, at the time head of the ANC department of constitutional and legal affairs, credited her with helping the ANC forge links with democratic lawyers inside South Africa.

She always boasted that she gave Jeff Radebe, now Minister of Transport, his first job at Nadel after his release from prison.

Among the people whose friendship and professionalism she cherished were Chief Justice Pius Langa, Advocate Selby Baqwa, Johnny de Lange, Silas Nkanunu, Kader Asmal, Azhar Cachalia and many other legal luminaries and human rights lawyers.

After leaving Nadel she ventured into business and became a successful entrepreneur. Among her achievements in business was as chairman of Midi, which owns, and chairman of Telkom.

She also sat on several company boards - among them Mvelaphanda Resources, Chris Hani-Baragwanath Reconstruction Trust and Maweng Resources.

By all accounts her stint with Telkom was a successful one and colleagues still have fond memories of a firm taskmaster who was a stickler for corporate governance.

Zolani, her brother, said Nomazizi was a pillar of strength to her family and a staunch member of the Methodist Church.

"Her remittances from the 1960s until her death kept her nuclear and extended family going. All her siblings grew up and went to school thanks to her efforts," said Zolani.

At the height of the struggle in the 1970s and 1980s she financed those who went into exile.

Mtshotshisa, who had battled poor health for a while, succumbed to the ravages of cancer last week.

"A life well lived, a life sometimes poignant, sometimes tragic often humorous, always courageously led," said Zolani.

She is survived by her teenage daughter Tulisa, her two sisters and two brothers.

Mtshotshisa will be buried tomorrow in East London. The service will be held at Christian Centre in Abbotsford from 9am.


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