By More Matshediso
Vryburg - A sombre mood filled the special dome erected at the showgrounds in Vryburg in the North West on Saturday as thousands of mourners paid their last respects to the distinguished stalwart of the struggle against apartheid, Ruth Segomotsi Mompati.
Mme Ruth, a former Member of Parliament and Mayor of Vryburg, passed away in a Cape Town hospital on 12 May at the age of 89 after an illness. She was among those who organised the women’s march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956 to protest against apartheid pass laws.
She was afforded a special official funeral which was attended by President Jacob Zuma, Cabinet ministers, premiers of various provinces and over 4000 mourners.
Former President Kgalema Motlanthe, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Speaker of National Assembly Baleka Mbete, amongst others attended the funeral.
Emotions ran high as the stalwart’s grandchildren took to the podium and shared special memories of Mme Ruth which they will cherish forever.
“Heaven has received a queen,” said one of her granddaughters. She said Mme Ruth’s great-grandchild believed she had grown purple wings - which they interpreted as royalty - and she was sitting in heaven among the other angels with these special wings.
Another granddaughter, Sindi Junior, said Mme Ruth used to sit with her until around 2am in the morning so she could finish her school work. “[She] was my mother… she was my grandmother and my best friend,” she said.
One of the things she learnt from her grandmother was to share the little she had with those who were without.
“… You are now looking down on me…” said the emotional Sindi, who also read out messages from her brother.
Another granddaughter of Mme Ruth said she was lucky to have been taught by her example.
She was humbled when one day she turned to the first page of her history textbook and found a story of Ruth Mompati, a women she knew only as her grandmother. She then learnt that her grandmother was a hero to many.
Mme Ruth’s niece Sindi Ngaba (Senior) said she might have looked old but she was young at heart, and they used to dine out together and even went to beauty spas and on shopping sprees regularly.
Mme Ruth loved Vryburg as her place of birth and the residents very much. “After travelling the world, she could have chosen to settle anywhere but she chose to return to you,” she told the mourners.
Fellow veteran of the struggle, Sophie Williams-De Bruyn, paid tribute to Mme Ruth, saying she had left citizens and the leaders of the country with the tools to contribute to a better life for all.
Delivering the eulogy, President Jacob Zuma said people had not gathered in Vryburg to mourn, but to celebrate Mme Ruth’s life – a life totally dedicated to the struggle for freedom, justice, equality and the quest for a better life for all especially the poor.
“Here lies an outstanding leader with an exemplary life which is an embodiment of the principles and values of the liberation movement. She lived these values of unity, selflessness, sacrifice, collective leadership, humility, honesty, discipline, hard work and mutual respect.
“And here lies a leader who was totally committed to the vision of creating a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.”
He said even in retirement, many years later Mme Ruth was involved in various community projects aimed at the upliftment of people.
President Zuma urged leaders and citizens to revive and promote in themselves and in communities the supreme ideals that she held dear.
“We should promote unity, respect for one another, patriotism, non-racialism, tolerance and equality for men and women,” said the President.
The funeral’s programme started with a family prayer service at her house in Vryburg at 6am followed by a service at her church. The special official funeral then took place at the Vryburg showgrounds.
She was taken to her last place of rest in the Vryburg cemetery in the afternoon.
Multitudes remained at the dome when the family, church leaders, President Zuma and his Cabinet proceeded to the cemetery to complete the funeral service. - SAnews.gov.za