A Tribute to Mama Epainette Mbeki

The passing on of Mama Mbeki marks the loss of one of the stalwarts in a generation within a family of freedom fighters. Mama Mbeki was a wife of a freedom fighter, a mother of a freedom fighter and a liberator in her own right.

In action and in ideas, she dedicated her life to free the people of South Africa and to serve the cause of the poor. Her mission was to support women, youth and children. I will always remember a special encounter when myself, Frank Chikane and Thoko Didiza visited her in Idutywa to convince her to celebrate her 90th birthday.

All she could talk about was the work she was doing with women and the young people and their education. When she finally spoke to us on the birthday matter she informed us that celebration of a birthday is bourgeoisie tendency.”To bring people together who have food in their own homes for a day of eating when we need to save to feed the poor seems like a terrible waste. Let’s concentrate on how we are going to support women with their self-help initiatives,” she stated and with that we were dismissed. Hamba kahle Mama Mbeki. I send you love and appreciation from myself, UN Women and the women of the world.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women – and Founder Umlambo Foundation