Mama Zondeni Sobukwe laid to rest

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The epitome of strength, courage and perseverance. That is how Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe has been described by her granddaughter, Otua Sobukwe-Whyte.

“Her sacrifice knew no bounds, she put others before herself. She never once said it is too hard.  Gogo had five children, my mother Miliswa, uncle Dini, Dalindyebo and Dedani,” said an emotional Sobukwe-Whyte.

Mama Sobukwe was the wife of Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) founding President Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.

She passed away at the age of 91 on Wednesday, 15 August, at her home in Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape.

Family, friends, government ministers and officials, members of her political home- the PAC and various political parties gathered to say their final goodbyes on Saturday.

Mama Sobukwe was buried in her husband’s birth place, Graaff-Reinet- in a grave adjacent to that of her late husband.

Following her passing, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared that she buried in a Special Official Funeral Category 2, which is reserved for distinguished persons. But government had to pull out of the funeral following uncontrollable disruptions in the marquee at which the service was taking place. 

"The handing over of the flag and ceremonial guard of honour withdrawal, which signals the end of the official funeral, has had to be done at the marquee at the Botanical Gardens. This is normally done at the gravesite but unfortunately a decision had to be made, after consulting with the family, to dispense the ceremonial aspects of the funeral at the marquee which signalled the end of Mma Sobukwe’s official funeral," government said in a statement. 

Deputy President David Mabuza had to abandon the service for security reasons. Government said the decision was taken to ensure that certain disruptive elements "who were hell bent on desecrating the dignity of Mam’ Sobukwe did not succeed".  

"As government we saddened by the behaviour of certain element who disrespected the decorum of a funeral," read the statement. 

Mama Sobukwe’s death came as 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of her husband, Robert Sobukwe.  In her youth, Mama Sobukwe participated and led protest marches against racist conditions imposed on trainee Black nurses at Victoria hospital in eDikeni (Alice).

Her leadership of this protest march resulted in her later meeting with Robert Sobukwe, then President of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) at the University of Fort Hare.

Independent of her husband, Mama Sobukwe challenged the injustices against imposed by the apartheid government. 

In April this year – President Ramaphosa bestowed the National Order of Luthuli in Silver on Mama Sobukwe for her contributions to the liberation of country.