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
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.
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
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,
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.