By Aviwe Mtila
On June 7, South Africa lost another of its great leaders - Epianette Mbeki, the mother of former president Thabo Mbeki - who died at age 98.
With the loss of legendary struggle hero Nelson Mandela in December last year, one would not be blamed for viewing the passing of MaMbeki as symbolizing the end of an era of selfless leaders.
Leaders who dedicated their lives to serving the people of South Africa; stalwarts such as Oliver Thambo, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Albertina Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, to mention a few, are people who led for the sole purpose of bettering the nation and serving the needs of its people.
South Africa is in its twentieth year into democracy, and yet, the country is still unstable. It is marred by with high levels of unemployment, strikes across the nation and shockingly appalling levels of poverty.
Corruption and lavish lifestyles seem to be the order of the day among current politicians in government. With this in mind, the question of what the contribution of this generation of leaders to the South African Society is, needs to be looked at closely.
Are the good morals, values and leadership qualities that speak for themselves in our past leaders still evident in our current leaders? Are our leaders still serving the needs of the nation or have they shifted their focus on enriching themselves and each other, neglecting a poverty stricken nation?
Our current leaders can learn a lot from the likes of MaMbeki, who lived a modest life in Ngcingwane, a rural village in the former Transkei. Till her dying days, MaMbeki dedicated her life to community development.
After marrying Govan Mbeki in 1940, MaMbeki gave up her life as a teacher in Durban and moved back to Transkei with her husband, driven by the calling to uplift and emancipate their home region’s impoverished rural masses.
In Transkei the Mbeki’s opened a shop in Mbewuleni which MaMbeki ran when her husband focused on the nation’s politics.
When her husband was facing life imprisonment and her three sons were in exile, what kept her going was her unflinching belief in community development and her faith in self-help projects as means towards social and economic advancement. MaMbeki was involved in community projects as she was the patron of a successful community farming project.
Epianette Mbeki is a true reflection of the type of leaders South Africa is losing and has lost; a generation that has contributed positively to the South African society. She is part of a generation of leaders that has shown us the true definition of the term ‘Ubuntu’.
What are our modern day leaders contributing, besides their lavish homes being upgraded with millions of tax-payers hard earned money?
Are we suppose to trust that our leaders will bring us ‘economic freedom’, when they live luxurious lives which we know they can’t afford or account for?
Are we supposed to believe that the leaders of the DA will bring any change, when the gap between the rich and the poor in the Western Cape is too disturbing to note?
In a South Africa, where our leaders are clearly benefiting first before considering the needs of the nation, one needs to use the examples set by our past leaders such as Epianette Mbeki.
South Africans need to stop depending on the government for survival and start engaging in self-help projects as means towards social and economic advancement.
Will the legacy of the passing era of leaders ever be visible in the current leaders? That remains to be seen.
What is clear, though, is that the current leaders need to learn true leadership from past leaders in order to shape a brighter South Africa.