Sowetan Reporter

Sowetan Reporter

Mama Nellie Sindiwe Mthengenya has died. She was 79.

Mama Mthengenya, the mother of Mandisa Titi, a senior executive at the SABC, trained as a nursing sister. She stopped nursing at a government hospital and joined the Eastern Cape Orsmond Santa Centre, a tuberculosis (TB) facility and became a TB educator for her community in Kwa-Nobuhle near Uitenhage.

Recognising her resilience and bravery, the International Committee of the Red Cross approached Mama Mthengenya to start a local branch of the Geneva-based organisation. But times were tough and tensions and suspicions were the order of the day. Organisations were sceptical of the Red Cross, but Mama Mthengenya bought into the organisation and she distinguished herself as a community leader.

In granting her the De-Mist Award in 1987, the Rotary Club in Uitenhage lauded Mama Mthengenya's contribution in building her community beyond the normal call of duty, "many times at great personal risk," reads the award.

At the time, the organisation also assisted political prisoners on Robben Island. The local branch under the stewardship of Mama Mthengenya continued to take care of some of the people after they were released from the prison. Her work made her popular and much loved.

She also had a penchant for youth development and wellbeing. Zwai Bala, on of the Bala brothers is one of Mama Mthengenya's many protégés.

"I first heard about a country called Switzerland and the Geneva Convention and so on from Mama Nellie. She was resourceful and had interesting methods of teaching the youth and keeping us focused," Bala said.

"I still vividly remember her teaching methods and the health tips she gave us."

Another of her protégés was a woman nickname Netnou, whom Mama Mthengenya taught to sew. Today she runs a successful dressmaking business.

"We had no sewing skills when we joined her sewing project. Look how she empowered us. May God receive her good spirit," said Netnou.

Mama Mthengenya leaves six children, all professionals.

This stalwart will be laid to rest tomorrow. The service starts at 9.30am at the Elliot Memorial Church in Uitenhage.