A Message of Condolences on the Passing of Mam’uZodwa Veronica Sobukwe.

15 August 2018

The Thabo Mbeki Foundation has learnt with deep sadness of the passing of the esteemed member of the Order of Luthuli, uMam’uZodwa Veronica Sobukwe, who passed today, August 15, 2018.

A committed activist in her own right, Mam’uSobukwe experienced suffering that no human being should ever have to endure at the hands of another. She underwent immense suffering and sacrifice merely because she believed in and fought for equal rights and equal treatment of all races.

To salute Mam’uSobukwe, we post below a tribute written to her by the late Pan-African literary giant and doyen of letters, E’skia Mphahlele, which was published in 2003. As the TMF we would like to express our agreement with the words and meaning of this moving tribute about a great African woman.

May Mam’uSobukwe’s soul rest in peace!

Issued by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation

For enquiries, contact: Siyabulela Gebe

Cell: 0723714807

Email:  siyabulela@mbeki.org


Tribute to Zodwa Veronica, A Great Woman

By Es’kia Mphahlele

March 25, 2003

I see through the window of my mind

millennia upon millennia of African women:

droves and droves of them

have walked this earth and toiled

babies on their backs, clay pots, firewood

on their heads.


And when the red and the pink locusts

swarmed our lands savaging

every blade and every acre and leaf of it,

stripping us naked.

We attacked.

When the reds and the pinks

gunned us down

wrung our necks in the noose of their civilisation—

that is when we lost our innocence.

In our time a man was born

to this nation

Mangaliso Sobukwe.


He had a dream that would not let him be—

amid so much pain, so much longing,

so much history dripping

centuries of blood

the heavens themselves must have screamed:

a dream to seek and restore

that sense of ourselves

that proclaims a people’s selfhood

echoing from hill to hill down the ages

from rim to rim of this planet.


You were there with Mangaliso,

Mother Veronica

ever ready for him to draw the vigour,

succour from the family warmth that

only one can know in his woman’s

embrace a million million times reassuring.

You were there with him,

Daughter of Africa,

at the banging and clanging of prison doors and gates,

there in the busy wards where your man

lay listening to the ravaging beat of his pain.


The ebb of the flow of life

from a body

always waiting for someone’s paper work,

someone counting time for a man’s life

he would never grasp.

You had been there to witness it all—

man fixed on a course

to set black humanity free:

a man breasting the hills

and breaking his feet on rocky road

from college to stockade to the end of his life.

Then at last, daughter of Mathe,

the sun came out of you

and your children

blazing from above the eastern skyline

lighting your way

through the darkness of your journey.

Always you were reminded this—

that no-one in all of savage Christiandom

could break your man’s mind or spirit,

or trample on sanctity of your home—

divine gift of the Supreme One

attended by the ancestors.

We salute you,

Daughter of Africa

devoted wife and mother

who turned pain into an ever-glowing shrine

the full shadow of your man

on the wall above your head while you pray.

And look, children of Africa—

the soothing modesty of that

Sobukwe smile leading defiant crowds:

Not riding tanks of fire but

pushing frontiers of courage, faith,

a people’s love—

the smile that speaks in many tongues!


You were always there,

Mama Sobukwe, waiting.

The sun, our elders teach us,

Shines on all of us, Mama,

Bears no envy nor spite for anyone.

(Lebowakgomo, Limpopo)


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