Over 18 months and eight court appearances, I had come to know Mama Maki. She sat in the second row in the court and when I looked up during court proceedings, it was always her gentle face that I would see first. Sometimes the picture of exhaustion, sometimes quiet determination, but always, always the picture of perfect patience.
Mama Maki endured the injustice of being criminalised for saving lives with a quiet resolve. She left her family every few months to show up for court appearances, she was never late, and when the community healthcare workers took to the streets of Bloemfontein she was always at the forefront, undeterred by her age. In fact she spent her last birthday among the other accused sitting in Court G, for the eighth time. But there wasn’t a single trace of bitterness in her face. Instead Mama Maki was dressed to the nines; if anyone had met her in the street they would never have believed that this regal woman was an alleged criminal.
Mama Maki’s death is bittersweet. On the one hand I am so grateful that she died a free woman and vindicated in her quest for justice. But at the same time, I am angry that she had to spend the last 18 months unable to do what she loved – help people. I am angry that the wheels of justice turned so slowly, and I find myself questioning whether I did enough? Was there anything I could have done to have made the justice she deserved come faster? Could I have found a way to have spared her having to be away from her family for days at a time to be in court? Could I have done more?
And if this life is more about what we give that what we receive, then perhaps our encounter was more about what she could do. If that’s the case, then I cannot begin to explain how lucky I was to have met her. From Mama Maki I have learnt patience, perseverance and courage. But more than anything, I have learnt never to stop running until you reach the end, Nomatter how long it takes.
I have gone back and forth in my mind trying to find some comfort in Mama Maki’s passing and I guess it will be this – that she saw it through till the very end. She never faltered and although her circumstances should have hardened her, she remained gentle throughout. Not just for herself but for anyone else who will seek justice.
Rest easy, Mama Maki, you will always be remembered for your selfless struggle towards justice. I will miss your gentle smile and your quiet determination. And wherever you are, if you could sing “Asoze saphel’amandla” (We will never give up) just one more time, we would sing it with you and remember that we may have a long way to go, but at least you walked us this far and have given us the strength to continue. As they say, if I have seen further than others, it is only because I stood on the shoulders of giants.
We are, because you were. DM
Photo: Mama Maki Tsiane
Read the recent judgment in the #BopheloHouse94 matter here
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