OPINION: Sis Lindi, the acclaimed educationist taught some Americans in Ohio who became prominent figures in the US political landscape. They too speak of her in the same glowing terms I have tried to venture, writes Welile Nhlapo.
Only three weeks ago I had the rare honour and privilege to be invited to what turned out to be a family gathering at the home of Comrade Ambassador Lindiwe Mabuza.
I say so because I believed it to be an opportunity for me to pay her a private visit since her health was beginning to be a matter of grave concern as cancer was determined to pluck her out from our midst.
It was not only a political obligation to do so, but I was mainly driven by the human urge to return the love, caring and compassion she had shown toward others and myself since I came to know her.
I was merely honouring a mutual desire to meet, chat and share a smile. When my turn came to be ushered into her bedroom I found a bubbling, alert, happy and engaging Sis Lindi that I have come to know since 1978 when I first met her.
We first met in Cuba on the occasion of the World Festival of Youth and Students under the theme, For Anti-Imperialist Solidarity, Peace and Friendship. She was there to co-ordinate our delegation’s opportunity to showcase our cultural diversity and tell the story of our struggle through song, dance and poetry. We had a strong contingent of creatives whose core was a group of Umkhonto We Sizwe combatants that I had trained with in Angola.
This was the foundation of what came to be known as the Amandla Cultural Ensemble, the cultural weapon the ANC used to mobilise for the isolation of the apartheid regime and political support for our struggle.
Given her age and political experience, she became the main anchor of that delegation which was mainly composed of the youth and students of the ANC in Cuba itself and from other parts of the world.
I was there to cover the meetings and activities in which our president Oliver Tambo was participating as the guest of Fidel Castro. I was at that time, the deputy editor of Sechaba, the then official organ of the ANC.
Comrade Lindi once again responded positively to the request of the leadership of the Youth Section to organise uniforms for the ANC delegation that participated in the 1985 edition of the World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow. Her constant belief in organising, educating and mentoring young people was once again reaffirmed. This consistency runs through her relationship with and confidence in the youth as a Head of Mission.
That is why she remained Sis Lindi, Aunt and more recently Mam’ Lindi to many.
I have had some people describe her as an elegant woman of substance. A large, looming mother figure and a true imbokodo. I concur. I had to start from what was her dominant passion as a cultural activist of note for which she was bestowed with the National Order of Ikhamanga for her contribution.
She strongly believed in and practised the highest standards of cultural diplomacy as an ANC chief representative and an ambassador of the democratic South Africa.
She leaves our Foreign Service with a very rich legacy of contributing to the development of an effective tool in our diplomatic toolkit. She made sure that during the Foreign Policy Review Panel that Cultural Diplomacy once again became a prominent feature of our diplomatic practice.
She was also adamant that we investigate how we infuse gender into what will orientate towards a “feminist“ foreign policy. Something we agreed to as a panel that we will need to research in order to possibly realign ours to emerging global trends.
This is one tribute we can and should pay to her.
This is what made her the consummate diplomat that rightly she has been described by many who encountered her in this area of her calling. Sis Lindi, the acclaimed educationist taught some Americans in Ohio who became prominent figures in the US political landscape. They too speak of her in the same glowing terms I have tried to venture. What it conveys to me and I am trying to share is the human and humane attributes that represent who she truly is/was.
I am happy I had occasions to say this to her in return for a warm broad smile. After I had a complete knee replacement operation, when she saw me limping around the corridors of Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) during our Review Panel, she presented me with a walking stick which had a torch.
This gesture brought a lot of relief to me as I continued to limp around with some considerable balance. I still keep it as a “badge of honour” because only herself, the late Uncle Billy Modise and of late I spotted Aziz Pahad as a proud owner of one of the kind.
On my 72nd birthday, the only present I got was a cake she ordered and delivered to me. How can I not cherish that, in future, every time I remember that it is my birthday? Attempting to capture a rich life of scholarship, diplomacy and dedicated service to humanity and our own liberation in a few words was quite a daunting challenge. I could not cover the many published achievements of a rich life spanning more than eight decades, but am happy for the opportunity to share my experience with her.
Thanks to the family for this wonderful gift.
When she reports to the most authentic branch of the ANC which she has now joined, she must plead with them not to lose faith in us mere mortals they left behind. We pledge that no spear will fall on the ground while we traverse this earth they once inhabited.
The struggle continues! We owe this to our people, our departed comrades and future generations.
* Welile Nhlapo is an ANC veteran, retired ambassador and former national security adviser to the president.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.