Johannesburg - Last week his wedding brought together friend and foe – and even Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi attended, putting him under the same roof as President Jacob Zuma and SACP boss Blade Nzimande.
Even if just for a few hours on Saturday, the political rivalry was seemingly forgotten as Kgalema Motlanthe married his long-time sweetheart Gugu Mtshali.
On Saturday, Motlanthe again united friend and foe – but this time at the funeral of his mother MaSefako Motlanthe, who died last Friday, the day before her eldest son married Mtshali in Joburg.
Zuma, paying tribute to his outgoing deputy’s mother, referred to Motlanthe as “more than a comrade – a friend and a brother”.
Zuma described MaSefako as one of many whose contribution to the struggle against apartheid was sometimes forgotten.
Delivering a special condolences message at the service at the Anglican Church of Resurrection in Meadowlands, Soweto, on behalf of the government and the ANC, Zuma said MaSefako also suffered in silence because she carried the burden for her son’s involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle.
“She endured all of that, she was a brave mother,” Zuma said.
MaSefako was among mothers who gave birth to revolutionaries, he said.
He first met his deputy, who contested the ANC presidency with Zuma at the ruling party’s Mangaung conference in 2012, in 1976 as an underground operative with his (Motlanthe’s) friend and comrade Stan Nkosi, who died in 2008.
Motlanthe and Nkosi were arrested and later sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on Robben Island.
Zuma suggested that he expected Motlanthe to now spend most of his time politically conscientising ANC members and South Africans in general.
After his defeat in Mangaung, Motlanthe was appointed head of the ANC’s political school.
Motlanthe has two younger brothers, Tlatlane and Lekota.
Their mother was also involved in trade unionism before she retired in the early 1980s.
She was employed as a domestic worker and later trained as a machinist in the clothing and textile industry.
The Anglican Church of Resurrection’s Father Sepadi Moruthane said MaSefako taught her three sons not only by word but also by example.
“MaSefako was known for her humility. She remained a humble person.
“She excelled in her duties as a mother and grandmother,” said Moruthane, who had earlier apologised for Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba’s absence at the funeral service.
Makgoba conducted Motlanthe and Mtshali’s wedding ceremony.
Moruthane joked that with Motlanthe having grown up wanting to be a priest, it was time to reconsider with his retirement pending.
Congregants told The Sunday Independent that prayer kept MaSefako going while her eldest son spent a decade on Robben Island for his political activism.
Motlanthe, who is named after his maternal grandfather, Kgalema Marcus Madingoane, and his brothers were altar servers at the Anglican Church of Resurrection. One of MaSefako’s grandsons is currently an altar server at the church.
Motlanthe’s father, Louis, died in August 1989 – two years after his son’s release from Robben Island.