'We shall strive for the same spirit'

Winnie Mabaso with  Children at Zenzele Project at Fine Town,Johannesburg.

20051211AMU NEWS Winnie Mabaso with Children at Zenzele Project at Fine Town,Johannesburg. PHOTO: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Victor Mecoamere

Victor Mecoamere

Some are born into lives that lack love, respect and compassion for themselves and others.

Others live and work with passion to make a difference to others. They are remembered with admiration, love, near envy, pride and are honoured no end.

Sowetan, SABC and Old Mutual winner of last year's Gauteng Community Builder of the Year Award in the senior category Winnie Mabaso lived a full life as the inspirational leader of the Zenzele Counselling and Home-Based Care Centre and Orphanage in Finetown, south of Johannesburg.

Her humility is legendary. So is her passion for the 60-odd orphans at Zenzele.

Hundreds of other vulnerable children always stopped by for breakfast, lunch and supper.

Frail people and the terminally-ill, especially those with HIV-Aids, also made Zenzele their home away from home.

The glue that held it all together was a soft-spoken woman of nearly 70, whose magnetic smile remains deeply etched in the memories of those she cared for and those she worked with.

Mabaso was buried in Meadowlands, Soweto, at the weekend. She must have been smiling - as in the portrait that hung from the podium during a memorial service in Migson Manor near Finetown on Wednesday - when friends, neighbours, fellow community workers and young people sang her praises.

A friend, Rebecca Njikelana, said: "We met at Rhema Church in 1999 and were trained by St John's Ambulance as community health caregivers. I am proud to have been associated with someone so humble, inspirational, compassionate, dedicated, determined and passionate."

Lebo Motsepe, of PPC Cement, said: "We have lost a shining light in community work. As sponsors of Zenzele, we shall continue to work with the organisation to continue this fine legacy."

Pinky Hlatshwayo, an HIV-Aids awareness and education coordinator at the Health Department, said Mabaso had truly lived a full life worth emulating.

"She was a willing learner, diligent implementor of the department's policies and was a good teacher, mother and nurturer."

Rhoda Ramogale, of the Finetown community clinic, said: "Mama Winnie Mabaso was a person who reached and accommodated people the clinic could not help, and she truly made a big difference in their lives ."

Richmond Linya, a presenter on Zola 7 on SABC1 and Jabu Nkutha, who works for the health department, said they had learnt immensely from Mabaso, and were bowled over by Mabaso's humility and generous spirit.

A caregiver at Zenzele, Rhoda Sangweni, said: "She had a great vision. She cared for the vulnerable, frail and terminally-ill and always went back to school to learn the latest trends in the profession of community health care and work.

"Mama Winnie always told us that community work was all about the children and the people, and not about the money.

"We shall strive to have the same sacrificial spirit."