Acting President Paul Mashatile has labelled Limpopo Premier Stanley Chupu Mathabatha and his late wife Margaret “Maggie” Mathabatha a “revolutionary union” that served the people of South Africa during and after the struggle against apartheid and its legacy.
The country’s second in command was among a number of African National Congress (ANC) and government leaders who attended the funeral in Polokwane on Friday, where the late Margaret was laid to rest following her sudden death after a short illness.
“We are here on behalf of the government and the people of South Africa to pay our respects to a daughter of the soil, Mme Matlotlo Margaret Mathabatha, a liberation fighter in her own right. She spent most of her adult life dedicated to the socio-economic development of her people in the many leadership roles she played before and after the attainment of democracy in the country.
“Premier Chupu and Comrade Maggie Mathabatha met and cemented their relationship in the trenches of the liberation struggle to free South Africa from the yoke of racial oppression, violent land dispossession, and deliberate underdevelopment of the province and the country they called home. Theirs was a bond formed in revolution,” Mashatile said.
Mashatile, the country’s Deputy President, explained that the two lovers dedicated their lives to changing the plight of the poor.
“Individually and collectively, both Mme Maggie and Premier Mathabatha took up arms under the auspices of Umkhonto We Sizwe, the military wing of the then-banned African National Congress against an oppressor apartheid regime which had been declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations,” he said.
The deceased was also instrumental in the promotion of workers’ rights in South Africa, according to Mashatile.
“In particular, Mme Maggie Mathabatha was relentless and undaunted in joining the progressive trade union movement at a time when the workers’ rights were not recognised as human rights by the apartheid regime and the capitalist class. Comrade Maggie led workers through the slogan ‘an injury to one is an injury to all.’
“Many amongst us here would testify to Mme Maggie’s heroism at the shop floor, where she was a constant pain on the neck of the employers in the private sector. She was later to leave the retail sector following a protracted strike which saw so many workers losing their jobs. However, she was never lost to the quest to build a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, and prosperous South Africa,” he said.
Mashatile said Margaret had a passion for education, which led her to become instrumental in the formation of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union.
“She imparted knowledge to those who sought it. It was the same compassion and dedication she executed into her professional work, first as a teacher in various schools and as a dedicated public servant, and finally as an esteemed member of the diplomatic corps, representing South Africa in Ukraine, where she served as Madame de Chargé in the South African embassy until she returned home with her husband in 2013 when Comrade Stan was appointed as the premier of Limpopo province,” Mashatile said.
Mashatile thanked both families of the couple for availing them to the struggle and for the work they have done in government.
“Some of us here would like to thank the Moshoeshoe and the Mathabatha families for giving their daughter to the service of the people of Gauteng, where Mme Maggie grew up, to the people of Limpopo, where she led revolutionary struggles with her husband, and to the people of South Africa in general.
“We want to say to the families of Mathabatha and Moshoeshoe, your loss is also our loss, and is also the loss of the country, where she dedicated her life to the service of our people. We have no option but to pick up her baton and continue on the journey she started and led for our people to be completely and finally liberated from the clutches of poverty,” said Mashatile.
The funeral featured guests such as Mashatile, former cabinet minister Zweli Mkhize, electricity minister Dr Kgoshientsho Ramokgopa, and other cabinet members Thulas Nxesi, David Mahlobo and many others.