Marking The Centenary Of The Passing Of A Remarkable Pioneer Of Education, Mrs Nokutela Dube In The Lounge Of Dr Xuma's Sophiatown Home And At Her Grave In Brixton Cemetery

Onica Makwakwa, Buli Siwani and Joyce Siwani, great grandniece of Nokutela Dube, at a ceremony at Brixton Cemetery in Johannesburg, commemorating the centenary of the death of Nokutela Dube. Onica Makwakwa, Buli Siwani and Joyce Siwani, great grandniece of Nokutela Dube, at a ceremony at Brixton Cemetery in Johannesburg, commemorating the centenary of the death of Nokutela Dube. Image: The Witness

On Saturday 28 January 2017 the student study interim group from St Olaf College, facilitated by Khulumani Support Group, attended a gathering hosted by Mrs Joyce Siwani, great niece of Mrs Nokutela Dube, at the Sophiatown Remix Centre in Toby Street, Sophiatown, Johannesburg, the home of former ANC President Dr A B Xuma (see background information below).

The study group then moved to the grave site of Mam'Nokutela Dube in the Brixton Cemetery to commemorate her life one hundred years after her passing in 1917.

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From Mam'Joyce Siwani, the group learned of the the history dating back to the 1890s of the efforts of Mr John Langalibalele Dube, first President of the ANC and founder of the Zulu language newspaper, Ilanga lase Natal, together with his wife, Nokutela, to found the Ohlange Institute at Inanda, eThekwini.

After her passing in 1917, Nokutela's extraordinary work and contributions had been forgotten for almost a century, including her promotion of the Enoch Sontonga choral prayer for Africa, Nkosi Sikelel'iAfrika and her missionary outreach work to farm workers in the former Eastern Transvaal amongst many other contributions. This history remained hidden until the visit of Professor Cherif Keita, Professor of Francophone Literature at the Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota to South Africa in some ten years ago. Professor Keita, cousin of Malian musician, Salif Keita, received a calling to began the journey of uncovering the forgotten histories of the pioneers who had established independent educational institutions with the support of the American Board of Missionaries (now associated with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa.)

Through his efforts, the grave of Mam'Nokutela Dube was identified in the Brixton Cemetery and subsequently the links back to his home town of Northfield, Minnesota, where the graves of the missionaries who had assisted the Dubes were identified. It was a privilege to honour and draw strength from the life of a remarkable South African woman as participants spoke of her commitment to supporting the self reliance of African people. 

Read article of 30 January 2017, "Nokutela Dube remembered for teaching self reliance" by Stephen Coan in The Witness:

Or Download it below.


alfred xuma

Dr Xuma, in whose home we shared information on the life of Mam'Nokutela, had himself called for the self-reliance of the people in his written address to the 44th Annual Congress of the ANC in December 1955, stating that "all must realise no one else will ever free the Africans but the Africans themselves. Their genuine friends can help them, but the Africans themselves must rely on themselves."

Dr Xuma had been born in the eNgcobo District of the Eastern Cape and had persisted in striving to achieve his education as a physician in the United States. As the President of the ANC, he had called on all members of the ANC to understand leadership as "service for and not domination over others". 


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