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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

EPAINETTE MBEKI BOOK LAUNCHED (article first published : 2008-03-15)

Her son Thabo Mbeki has been the subject of a well-received biography. Now the spotlight falls on the compassionate and unassuming Epainette Mbeki. Thobeka Zazi Ndabula and Mathatha Tsedu’s book Epainette Nomaka Mbeki: A Humble Journey On Her Footprints was launched recently at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg.

A Humble Journey On Her Footprints is the brainchild of writer and photographer Ndabula. She explains: “When I met Umama I was truly humbled. I felt there was a need for a book that focuses on her life and impressive achievements. She is a remarkable woman who has suffered huge hardships but has always given back to her community. She has been and continues to be an inspiration to women around the country. She really is an unsung heroine.”

The book features a biography written by current City Press editor-in-chief Mathatha Tsedu as well as a transcript of an SAfm interview conducted by Tim Modise with Mrs Mbeki. Ndabula contributes a chapter on Mrs Mbeki’s impressive community work while there is also an extract from Mark Gevisser’s biography of Thabo Mbeki The Dream Deferred. The book also contains pictures from archives and family albums as well as a large number of beautiful pictures of her and her work taken by Ndabula.

Epainette Mbeki (née Moerane) was born in February 1916 in the Transkei. She graduated as a teacher from Adams College in Durban. She obtained a teaching post at Taylor Street Secondary School. One of her fellow teachers was Govan Mbeki, the man who would later become her husband. The Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) recruited her in 1937 – making her only the second black woman to join the CPSA. Mbeki became an active member of the liberation movement in Durban.

In 1940, she married Govan Mbeki and they moved back to Transkei, driven by their calling to help uplift the region’s impoverished rural masses. After her husband had been sentenced to life imprisonment at the Rivonia Trial and her three sons had gone into exile, Mrs Mbeki remained at Mbewuleni. It was a time of deep trauma and hardship. What kept her going then, and what keeps her going now, was her unflinching belief in community development, as well as her faith in self-help projects as a means towards social and economic advancement. A firm advocate of making a difference in one's own community, she remains in Ncgingwane to this day. The book looks at her community work and is an eulogy to her work and contribution to the struggle for freedom.

Thobeka Zazi Ndabula studied photography at The Market photography workshop. She has worked at several media outlets including The Star and Sowetan, and has contributed to a number of books, including Women by Women: 50 Years of Women’s Photography in South Africa. Her work is featured in several exhibitions. She is currently working for Zazi’s Productions.

Mathatha Tsedu is currently editor-in-chief of City Press.




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