Struggle icon Robert Sobukwe’s family refuse to blame the Midland Hospital for the death of his widow Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe a few days after being discharged from the facility in Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape.
The 91-year-old died peacefully at her home in the early hours of Wednesday morning, surrounded by her children Miliswa, Dinilesizwe and Dedanizizwe and other family members. Dedanizizwe’s twin brother Dalindyebo died on May 9, 1999.
The Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Trust’s Thando Sipuye said Mama Sobukwe, a retired nurse, had a good relationship with staff and doctors at the hospital.
“They did their best. The Sobukwe family understood that Midland is a public hospital and sometimes has challenges of not having medication,” he said.
Last weekend, The Sunday Independent reported that Mama Sobukwe’s discharge had to be delayed because she could not get her medication on time after a mix-up at the facility.
She had been at Midland Hospital for three weeks before she was discharged on Monday.
In July last year, I’solezwe lesi-Xhosa reported that Mama Sobukwe had no identity document, and her eldest son Dinilesizwe complained that she could not access social services as a result.
Sipuye said Mama Sobukwe was in her ward with seven other women from the Graaff-Reinet area.
According to Sipuye, the Sobukwes understood that because Midland Hospital was a public institution, she wasn't receiving the type of medical care she deserved.
He said the family had been unsuccessful in their attempt to get assistance from the government as no response was forthcoming despite Mama Sobukwe being recognised as a veteran and stalwart of the liberation Struggle.
Yesterday, tributes poured in for Mama Sobukwe, with the PAC, the party her husband founded in 1959, describing her as “very humble, resistant and loving”.
“We had already acknowledged the award or recognition she got from the democratic state but we emphasised that the timing was all wrong because they had forgotten her for too long; there was an attempt to mute her and her colossal contribution to the liberation movement as well as democratic dispensation,” the PAC said, referring to the Order of Luthuli in Silver bestowed on her by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April.
Her family said “although largely unknown, silenced and erased from public memory and national consciousness, she dedicated most of her adult life to the cause of the Azanian people, and for this was known far and wide as the Mother of Azania”.
“The Sobukwe family are deeply grateful for the gift of her life and the innumerable lessons she leaves behind. And even as we mourn her passing, we celebrate her humility and the simplicity with which she approached and viewed life. Indeed, a great tree has fallen!”
Ramaphosa honoured Mama Sobukwe “for her tenacious fight for freedom and her steadfast support of incarcerated freedom fighters”. He said the loss - in Women’s Month - of Mama Sobukwe was a sad loss to the Sobukwe family, the foundation and the nation at large.
“We have lost a heroine of resistance and a fighter for the freedom of all South Africans, who continued her activism into our democratic dispensation. We will always remember and honour her extraordinary contribution,” he said.
PAC veterans have complained for years over the state of the houses in which the family lived in Mofolo, Soweto; Standerton, Mpumalanga; and Galeshewe, Kimberley.
Sobukwe’s grave in Graaff-Reinet was only declared a national heritage site in 2013.
The family that now own the Mofolo home refused to be interviewed yesterday.
Details of memorial and funeral services will be released once these have been finalised, the family said.