Presidency to bestow Order of Luthuli on Mamu Sobukwe

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Struggle stalwart and anti-apartheid activist, Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe, affectionately known as Mother Azania, will receive the Order of Luthuli in Silver from the Presidency on Saturday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will bestow the order of Luthuli, the order of Ikhamanga, the order of Baobab, and the order of Companions of OR Tambo on a number of South Africans who made an impact in the advancement of democracy and improving the lives of South Africans.

Mother Azania is the wife of the late PAC leader, Robert Sobukwe.

Like many women during the liberation struggle, Mam’ Sobukwe suffered in the hands of the apartheid regime. She is one of the women that stood up to the apartheid government, advocating for the release of her husband, the late Robert Sobukwe.

Mamu Sobukwe wrote several times to those in relevant positions during the apartheid era, calling for Sobukwe’s release, due to health reasons.

Many feel that this struggle icon is one of the forgotten people by the democratic government. Her grandson, Mangaliso Tshepo Sobukwe says like many, her grandmother’s contribution was overshadowed by her husband.

“What I can say about uGogo is that she is a very simple person, doesn’t really ask for a lot. But I do feel though she has been shortchanged in terms of her contribution. What a lot of people don’t know is that uGogo was an activist before meeting my grandfather Sobukwe. So in her own right. She is an activist. She is a struggle icon. The issue does become that a lot of women are overshadowed by their husbands and uGogo is a good case of that.”

Mamu Sobukwe now resides at Graaff Reinet, a small town in the Eastern Cape, where she and her husband started their life together. It is also where her husband was buried in February 1978.

She might be 90, but old age and ill health are not stopping her from going about her household duties.

“Gogo is a very simple woman from KZN. She grew up in a farm. She is extremely hard working and it’s one thing that she showed me growing up. She wakes up early, works in the garden. Gogo wakes up at 4. She does her stuff and she is 90,” added Tshepo.

Mamu Sobukwe is known for challenging injustice and playing a huge role in the advancement of democracy. Although her family does feel that she has been overlooked, Tshepo says they’re grateful for this opportunity.

“Obviously, she is elated and she is happy about it, but I think as a family, we obviously wish that she can get so much more you know. There’s a lot more that needs to be done to honour not only her husband but herself. But as a family, we are grateful for this opportunity, that she is actually being recognised for her struggle and her sacrifice.”

This recognition coincides with the 40th anniversary of Robert Sobukwe’s death, and this is the first honour this family receives from the government.

Due to old age and ill health, Mamu Sobukwe will be represented by her son Dini at the awards ceremony.