TOP LEVEL: President Jacob Zuma thanks Nokuhamba Nyawo as premier Zweli Mkhize looks on. Pic. ANDREW HLONGWANE. 15/12/2009. © Sowetan.
TOP LEVEL: President Jacob Zuma thanks Nokuhamba Nyawo as premier Zweli Mkhize looks on. Pic. ANDREW HLONGWANE. 15/12/2009. © Sowetan.

AN 89-year-old KwaZulu-Natal woman is blessing the years she used to hide Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) cadres in her home at Ingwavuma to save them from being arrested by police during the apartheid years.

Nokuhamba Nyawo of Emachobeni near Ingwavuma, was visited by President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday before he proceeded to a rally at the local sports ground that celebrated the 48th anniversary of MK.

Zuma, who was in the company of the former vice-president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, arrived at the home of Nyawo shortly before 11am and greeted people, mostly by name, saying he used to operate with them during the struggle.

Before getting into the tent, Zuma started by introducing a number of men that he found at Nyawo's home to his companion and said he used to work with them underground for many years because they were afraid of the police since political organisations had been banned at the time.

Zuma asked a member of the family to introduce Nyawo's close family, including her sisters, who had flanked her inside the tent before the president could tell people what had brought him to the home of the octogenarian.

The president then told all present that he was visiting Nyawo to thank her for having harboured him and many other members of MK and the ANC "many years ago".

He said he knew Nyawo because of her brother Jameson Mngomezulu, who was one of the most active members of MK that operated on the ground over the years.

Zuma said Mngomezulu was kidnapped by the apartheid forces while hiding in Swaziland and was apparently killed when his captors wrapped bombs around his waist.

He said the area of Ingwavuma was very special during the apartheid era because it was close to Swaziland and this was one of the first places that the cadres would reach when coming from Mozambique via Swaziland.

Zuma thanked Nyawo for having been able to hide cadres without fear even though the police were seriously against anyone willing to do that.

When Nyawo was given the microphone to respond after Zuma had thanked her, she started by shouting "Viva ANC Viva" before telling Zuma about the problems her community was facing.

"Mr President, I was in hospital because my blood pressure went high when I heard you were coming to visit me. Who am I to be visited by the president of the country?

"I want you to know that we do not have water, electricity and roads in this area, especially one that could take us to Swaziland," Nyawo, originally from Swaziland, told Zuma.

Nyawo later told Sowetan that she had 10 children and eight of them had died and that she did not know that by hiding members of MK during the late 1970s and the early 1980s she would end up being recognised.

Zuma later announced that Nyawo would receive a television set and a bed from the local ANC region.