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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
Van Rooyen suddenly withdraws his interdict

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mambeki's story: A NEW PERSPECTIVE

By unknown | Apr 01, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Epainette Nomaka Mbeki commands respect.

Eastern Cape Premier Nosimo Balindlela and Public Works Minister Thoko Didiza are on her catering committee and she can call the president to order.

Her claim to fame is not only being President Thabo Mbeki's mother and wife of Govan Mbeki.

She is revered in her community of Ngcingwane in the Eastern Cape.

A revolutionist in her own right, she was the second woman to join the Communist Party of South Africa in 1937 and was a founding member of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce.

Moments of her life are captured in a coffee table book titled Epainette Nomaka Mbeki: A Humble Journey on her Footsteps by Thobeka Zazi Ndabula and Mathatha Tsedu.

The book was a labour of love for Ndabula, who had a short time to put it together and launch it on International Women's Day - March 8.

As a result it strikes one as being a bit rushed because it does not go into as much detail as a biography would. One feels cheated going through the book.

Surely there must be more to Mbeki's life, one is left thinking. It begs for a more in-depth look.

The photographs are fresh, some taken on Mbeki's birthday in February. They are also warm and intimate, since they reveal another dimension of a woman regarded by many as just the president's mother.

Didiza is shown chopping up pumpkin in the nonagenarian's kitchen and Balindlela serving cake to guests.

There are intimate moments of the senior Mrs Mbeki and her famous son holding hands, and letters she wrote to her husband while he was incarcerated on Robben Island in which she affectionately addresses him as "Honey".

These throw new light on a family that has been said to be cold and frigid.

Her work with Khanyisa Ntsimbi, a beading project that Mbeki continues to support, is chronicled in detail, reaffirming her roots in a community she has refused to leave.

An interview with former radio talk-show host Tim Modise and extracts from her son's biography, A Dream Deferred by Mark Gevisser, gives further insight into a formidable woman.

Ndabula's work has featured in books such as Women by Women: 50 Years of Women's Photography in South Africa, Beauty: A black perspective and Thinking about you.


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