We today say a sad farewell to a daughter of the Transkei; Mama Epainette Mbeki.

She was unyielding in her support of her husband, Govan Mbeki, during the struggle years. After Oom Gov was sentenced to life imprisonment, she had to make yet another enormous sacrifice when her children were forced into exile. To say that Mama Epainette was a strong woman is an understatement; she was a rock upon which the apartheid regime broke itself.

How happy she must have been to again see her family after those troubled years and to see her surviving children rise to such great heights.

She had a role to play and she did it with unflinching determination. She was a proud but humble soul and her words about her sons spoke volumes: “They are grown men. They are very busy and I am also busy. But they always call every now and then when they want advice from their mother.”

For my part, I will always remember when she came for a visit at my office when I was the head of Transkei. She would walk straight to the guards at my door and ask them whether “that boy”, referring to me, was inside. The guards let her through without blinking. After taking a few minutes to talk about the purpose of her visit, we would launch into an in-depth conversation about politics.

At private functions at home, after everyone had left, I would invariably find myself engaged with Mama on the topic of politics. This habit of hers continued even after 1994. During the time when Thabo was President she would not shy away from directly asking me what we were doing to improve the quality of life of our people.

To the Mbeki Family, God sent you and South Africa, an angel. After having led a meaningful life, she has now gone back to our Father. It brings a smile to our faces to know that she will be reunited with her beloved husband for all eternity.

Our condolences with her loss.

May her soul rest in peace.