The month of May has three important days that essentially recognize blood, sweat and tears: Workers Day, Mother’s Day and Africa Day. I salute the hardest workers of them all: mothers and mother figures everywhere but especially those on this great continent, who persevere against all odds. In this blog, I allow my imagination to run free. I imagine what it would be like to host a brunch on Mother’s Day for four phenomenal African women. They are, in my opinion, the hardest working and most influential women in South Africa. Equally special and not without controversy (for some), these women have been in the struggle and are powerful role models for young African women aspiring to make a difference in this world.
Guest #1: Dr Graca Machel
Graca Machel is an obvious selection for the ladies brunch. Mother of two and twice widowed, she remains a passionate humanitarian, activist and a champion for social causes particularly those affecting women and children. She is a university chancellor, Member of the UN Panel for the post 2015 agenda, sits on several boards and has received numerous awards. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her for 5 and a half years. We travelled together on work trips, had conversations over dinner and worked on reports in hotel rooms. I remember how health conscious she is and therefore, low fat yogurt and low GI muesli must be on the brunch menu.
Graca is a great storyteller! She is also very sweet and very pleasant but don’t get it twisted: She is a beast in the boardroom. I have been on the receiving end of her beastmode more than once. But she will later pull me aside and say… “Yes, I was tough on you, but I am especially tough on women because I want us to shine.”
I remember when she requested me to accompany her on a trip to Kenya. I was already checked in at the airport, preparing to board when she called me on my cellphone to say that on account of Madiba’s health, she could no longer travel. She went on to say that she had full confidence in me to represent her. Talk about pressure! But, that vote of confidence… priceless!
If I were to have the pleasure of hosting her at my house for brunch, I would ask her who influenced her as a young lady? what motivated her to play such a powerful role in the liberation struggle of Mozambique? What was it like being a Minister for Education at the tender age of 30? How did Madiba feel about the ANC under the current leadership?
Guest #2: Dr Mamphela Ramphele
Like Graca Machel, romantic links with great men can often overshadow a woman’s accomplishments. If you google Mamphela Ramphele, her relationship with Steve Biko comes up quite prominently but she may just be the most professionally and academically accomplished on this list. Mamphela was a student activist, even did a few months of detention during apartheid (a cool badge to have), a qualified medical doctor, the first black university vice chancellor, Harvard visiting scholar, managing director of the World Bank, a corporate executive and mother of two. I think she would enjoy my scrambled eggs with salmon on rye toast.
Her ability to dabble in the corporate world, politics, academics, development, etc is mind blowing. Her recent entry into party politics fell a bit flat and revealed some poor strategic decisions on her part. But maybe, it was a solid political strategy that just fell apart. I would sit across from her at the table and ask about this. I would also ask her how she does it all. How does she make it humanly possible to achieve all this especially as a single mother? I would be keen to know what is most proud of and if she plans to slow down at 68 years old.
Guest #3: Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
I wonder if history will be kind to Winnie Mandela… I certainly hope so. She has served as a member of parliament, a deputy minister, president of the ANC women’s league, among others. A young mother of two, she herself was tortured by the apartheid government and held in solitary confinement for a year and through it all, she stayed in the trenches and fought, organized, strategized, campaigned, etc. She was married to Madiba for 38 years including the 27 years that he was in prison.
There is no denying that she made questionable choices and was found personally responsible for crimes including torture and murder. But I wonder if a man would have been judged in the same way … The fact is, many South Africans remain fiercely loyal to her and therefore, her contribution to the struggle is not in vain.
I wonder if brunch would be awkward having both her and Graca at the table given some alleged squabble over Madiba’s will. But anyway, I would love to get a feel of Winnie’s personality. Is she generally happy or bitter and angry? As I pass her the bacon, I’d ask her about what keeps her up at night? What makes her tick? What are her hopes for her grandchildren in the new South Africa?
Guest #4: Advocate Thuli Madonsela
If you take a dictionary and look up the word “integrity”, you will find the name, Thuli Madonsela. This woman is an institution; a powerhouse… Her legacy is sealed. She was appointed by President Zuma as the Public Protector and in the same role, found the president guilty of misusing state funds for his own gain: #Nkandlagate. Her recommendation that the President pays back some of the money used to upgrade his private residence has been affirmed by the constitutional court.
Thuli is a human rights lawyer and played a role in the drafting of South Africa’s constitution. She lost her husband many years ago and raised two children on her own. She appears to be quiet, very soft spoken and even shy. I worry that the other 3 women will talk over her. I think she would enjoy fresh coffee and a chocolate croissant.
Sadly, her term as public protector comes to an end in 2016. The president, I’m sure, will be very careful in making the next appointment. The youngest of the four women, I would be keen to know about her plans for the future. I would ask her if she believes that other countries should have an office of the Public Protector and what we can do as ordinary citizens to deepen democracy in our countries.
What an epic brunch this would be! Maybe one day….
Peace and Love!
Source: the elders.org, bbc.com, theboombox.com, corruption watch.org.za