Maverick Citizen


Mother of 11 receives the inaugural Mangwana Global award

Mother of 11 receives the inaugural Mangwana Global award
Nanikie Miriam Mojapelo, recipient of the inaugural Mangwana Global Award. (Photo: Supplied)

Nanikie Miriam Mojapelo is the recipient of the Mangwana Global inaugural award, which recognises her strength and commitment in raising 11 children (nine girls and two boys) alone.

Mangwana Global is a civil society organisation founded by Debbie Raphuti, a former member of Parliament who is now a human rights activist. The name is from the Sesotho phrase “Mangwana otswara thipa ka bo haleng”, meaning “a mother holds a knife by the blade”, signifying that women are strong and fearless, especially when it comes to protecting their families.

Debbie Raphuti and 17 year old Kabo Tladi from Tshwane who is the top achiever of the Township schools for 2019.
(Photo: Supplied)

The work of Mangwana Global spans many sectors, such as environmental preservation, education, sanitation, health and reproductive health. Based in Gauteng, the organisation also has regional branches in southern African countries as well as central and west Africa. The organisation has formed a partnership with World Women Leading Change, a Malaysia-based civil society organisation for the empowerment of women.

Nanikie Miriam Mojapelo’s husband, who worked as a painter, died in 2000 and she had to find a way to carry on and provide for her 11 children while ensuring that their education was not compromised. 

With no education herself, she worked at various jobs to ensure her children understood the value of hard work and an education. Among her listed occupations are a cleaner at a hospital, serving tea and working as a waiter at the Pretoria Zoo. 

Mojapelo brought her children up in Atteridgeville in a four-roomed house where everyone had to find their own space to sleep and it was not uncommon for some to sleep in the kitchen and under tables. She often made clothes for the children, at times using the 25kg sack that mielie meal comes in for material.

When Maverick Citizen interviewed her, she was flanked by her twin daughters, Phina Mojapelo, who is a social worker, and Maggie Mojapelo, who is a medical doctor and the initiator of a memorial for medical professionals who died while responding to Covid-19. The family said they were proud and humbled by the award that Mangwana Global and World Women Leading Change had bestowed on their mum.

Her daughters described her as innovative, citing the example of how, despite them having a small yard, she planted a vegetable garden so that they could eat. They said their mum was set on them getting an education and insisted that they should always be the first to arrive at school – even before the sun rose.

The trio says they believe strongly in hard work, education and perseverance as a means to better one’s life and the lives of others by giving back to the community. Mojapelo’s daughters are themselves sterling examples of active contributors to their community.

Phina Mojapelo, along with one of her other sisters, founded the New Jerusalem Children’s Home that takes care of destitute children. It later expanded to include a preschool, bakery and training centre. 

Dr Maggie Mojapelo started her medical practice in Khumalo Street, Thokoza, at a time when other healthcare providers were leaving for more lucrative locations. She stayed to serve the community of Thokoza. She also founded the Thokoza Peace Memorial in 1998, which was erected in memory of those killed during the clashes between the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and African National Congress in the 1990s. She is the founder of Mediwell Medical Centre, which provides a range of medical services. Recently, she ensured that all frontline Covid-19 workers, from cleaners to doctors, who died in the line of duty were memorialised, when she initiated the Healthcare Workers Heroes Memorial. 

The daughters recall that the former Director-General of Health, Dr Precious Matsoso, said their mother’s life story should be immortalised in a book. To which the octogenarian responded: “Why would you choose to write a book about a commoner?” 

Miriam Mojapelo said she is rich today because of what God has granted her, that people must lead a purposeful life, and should strive to always be ahead of the pack while taking others along with them. 

“There are no riches that come easily,” she said. DM/MC



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