Giving is perceived as an art, and so is spreading hope. Evidently it is in Limpopo First Lady Maggie Mathabatha’s nature to give. With the help of others she is dispersing goodwill, one step at a time and mostly to the benefit of the youth, women and disabled.
As patron of the Limpopo First Lady’s Trust she often reaches out to those in need in far flung localities across the province. She would give whatever she could to someone requiring help, she stresses during an interview that mostly revolves around efforts of the trust that are aimed at changing the plight of others.
She renders recollections of earlier meetings with youngsters in locations like Phophi Secondary School in the Mutale area, where learners attend school in a dilapidated and filthy building yet achieve good marks. Mathabatha explains of her undertaking to return to the school on 18 July when the world joins in the celebrations of Mandela Day for renovating the school premises.
With a motivational message and some contribution towards improving their lives, she attempts to reach out to her young audiences and spark optimism about the future. Her talks also contain reference to, among others, the dangers of drugs and alcoholism. In this regard she mentions a need for intensifying awareness on such matters. If she could touch only one life at a time, it would cause her to sleep peacefully at night, she remarks.
On a monthly basis Mathabatha identifies a different school visit in the most remote corners of Limpopo and through the generosity of corporate structures or women’s groups, the Limpopo First Lady’s Trust donates necessities like school shoes, solar lights and sanitary towels. She is convinced a difference is made with the little she takes along.
Another project she would want to see keep its momentum is the awards ceremony for domestic workers which was initiated last year. She anticipates appreciation being shown to these women during another event that is in the planning for August this year.
Her benevolent nature has been nurtured since she was senior administrative manager in the office on the status of people with disabilities in the Premier’s Office towards the end of the Nineties. She relates the then success of an initiative for disabled persons in Moletjie, who were assisted with a sustainable food garden and a poultry project benefitting the entire community. In the meantime it has died down and the need exists for it to be revived, she emphasises as she extends an invitation for assistance to interested parties who could help with the revitalisation thereof.
Even during a year spent in the Ukraine in 2012 she did not rest on her laurels but instead joined fundraising efforts as a diplomat’s spouse. Although it then pained her to think that she was helping the destitute in a foreign land while her own people were starving back home, the plight of the people of the Ukraine was much worse than that of South Africans and the need greater than the money raised, she points out. Mathabatha mentions how she was affected by a child dying due to lack of expensive life-saving medication.
During the time in the Ukraine she adopted a different social structure to what she was used to. Sharing her account of customs like the removal of shoes upon entering a house or inviting in whoever knocks at the front door, Mathabatha explains she decided to enrol for an elementary course in Russian to find her way around. Therefore hearing a smidgen of Russian in the Premier’s residence nowadays is not something unfamiliar, she laughingly concedes. She still revisits her notes and practices her Russian with her youngest son, who studied it at school.
When the luxury of time presents itself the mom of three will be found reading a novel, otherwise living out her passion for cooking. She speaks of a fondness for making lamb stew, rich pumpkin soup or a traditional variation with fish, vegetable and whatever other available ingredients. It is the washing of the dishes afterwards that she loathes though. When her husband occasionally steps into the kitchen to cook his favourite fish dish, she rather reclines to the lounge only to
return later to do the cleaning up. Yet again there is an infectious smile that would make anyone feel at home.
Story: YOLANDE NEL