Anti-apartheid activist Epainette Mbeki has died at the age of 98.
The Mbeki family confirmed that Epainette had died at a private hospital in East London in the Eastern Cape.
She was admitted to hospital two weeks ago for medical observation after she experienced respiratory problems.
MaMbeki, as she was commonly known, was the mother of former president Thabo Mbeki and the wife of anti-apartheid activist Govan Mbeki.
She was born in February 1916 in Mangoloaneng at Mount Fletcher, Transkei.
She taught at the Taylor Street Secondary School after being educated at the Mariazell Mission, the Lovedale Teachers’ College and graduating from the Adams College in Durban.
She taught with Govan Mbeki, whom she later married.
In 1937, Epainette Mbeki became the second black woman to join the Communist Party of SA, after Josie Palmer.
She then became an active member of the liberation movement in Durban.
She married Govan in 1940 and moved to the Transkei where the family set up a trading store in the Idutywa district.
The store earned the family a living and was run by Epainette Mbeki after her husband became involved in national politics.
The couple had four children — Linda, Thabo, Moeletsi and Jama. Epainette Mbeki raised them and contributed to her husband’s newspaper, Inkundla ya Bantu.
Epainette Mbeki was also a founding member of the National African Chamber of Commerce.
After Govan was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Rivonia Treason Trial, Epainette’s children Thabo, Moeletsi and Jama went into exile.
She remained at Mbeluweni and kept the store open. She was continuously harassed by the authorities.
She moved to Ncgingwane in 1974, closer to the town of Dutywa, where she continued to work as an activist for social upliftment and re-opened the family shop.
She continued to work toward uplifting her community until her death, supervising her many projects and giving advice to those who sought it.
President Jacob Zuma expressed his condolences yesterday to the Mbeki family following news that MaMbeki had passed away.
“A consummate activist in her own right who dedicated her life and that of her family to the struggle for liberation in South Africa from an early age, Mrs Mbeki was fiercely outspoken on political and socio-economic issues till the end,” said Zuma in a statement.
“Words are not adequate to explain the sad loss of this mother of our nation.
“We wish to express, on behalf of government and all South Africans, our deepest condolences and the nation’s solidarity with the Mbeki family at this hour. May her soul rest in eternal peace.”–Sapa.
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