Maverick Citizen

Paying Homage to a Maverick Citizen

I, we, reminisce: A tribute to Laetitia ‘Tish’ White

Leatitia "Tish" White. (Photo: Facebook)

Tish White died on Friday, 3 December. White, her husband, Dale, her children, and the extended family and community they grew around themselves were a beacon of light that shone in a dark conservative corner of Roodepoort and the world during the 1970s, 1980s and beyond. In this tribute, some of her closest colleagues reminisce.

It was an early hot summer morning of 1977.  I trudged my way on the rough gravel road from Horizon View Train Station to the pristine valley of Plot 89/90 Wilgespruit Farm. I reminisce

Suddenly a green Toyota Corolla adorned with flower stickers of all kinds stopped. I reminisce…

Tish White. (Photo: Facebook)

Dale had requested that you collect me from the station. I boarded the Toyota and held my breath as we rode on the bumpy and rocky road at high speed, you with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding your favourite cigarettes while changing gears. I reminisce

I breathed a sigh of relief when you stopped and parked near the kitchen door of the house. You welcomed me into the house and offered me a seat on the brown couch in the dining room lounge. Lying next to the couch was a big brown lazy farting dog. I reminisce…

After offering me coffee, I engaged with both Dale and yourself on why I, as an expelled student from the University of the North, must be offered a job. I realised, given the informality of the atmosphere then, that my brown suit and tie as well as my shining brown shoes were out of place in that environment. Besides, by now the shoes were full of dust and I was sweating from the jacket and tie. I reminisce

Tish White (Photo: Facebook)

The entire two-hour discussion that ensued focused on unemployment and the need for self-help and job creation, as unemployment was growing with company after company disinvesting from the country. I recounted what I knew and believed in, following the teachings of the Black Consciousness Movement and the examples of the Black Community Programmes which were pervasive at the time. I reminisce

We clicked and the next day I was handed a key and a Toyota bakkie TU 2900 to collect and distribute food parcels to the poor and destitute families linked to the TB clinic where Maggie Nkwe was working in Soweto. The food parcels were made of contributions from members of the St Paul’s Anglican Church pastored by Bishop David Nkwe and the Rev Dale White. I reminisce…

Tish and Dale White with one of their daughters. (Photo: Facebook)

From then on, the notion of self-help and self-reliance accelerated. Ukukhanya Soweto Candles lit Soweto and Europe, Ukukhanya Steel and Furnishers took root. Ipelegeng (carry yourselves) was started, and so on and on. On that big brown table of the dining room we conceived of more and more initiatives. From the Agency for Industrial Mission led by Dale and Joe Seoka we coined and developed the massive national programme, the Self Help Associates for Development Economics. I reminisce…

The sound of that typewriter rattling at your fingertips rings in my mind and ears as we produced document after document of fundraising reports and proposals for the ensuing projects and programmes. With copious amounts of coffee and your cigarettes, you were the backbone of our administration. I reminisce…

The New Horizon Project was born under the leadership of Father Lebamang Sebidi; the Women Informal Training Institute under the leadership of Lindi Myeza emerged; the Urban Community Organising Division under the leadership of Ishmael Mkhabela followed; the Craft Association under the guidance of Sipho Mashinini; the Ukukhanya Trust administered by Sipho Nkosi; and finally the Ubuntu Social Development Institute that we initiated and I led and transferred to Dr Mothlabi all grew. We reminisce…  

Tish White (Photo: Facebook)

At a personal level, your and Dale’s simple lifestyle exuded the true values of ubuntu, not at the theoretical or philosophical level. It was practical. Your household was a household for all and sundry. I shared your house with my family at a time of need and so did many who traversed and invaded your kitchen in endless droves. I, we, reminisce…

You were a mother to the orphans, the uprooted, marginalised, the vulnerable, the young and old. You embraced and played a sterling, constructive and nurturing role in support of the liberation struggle heroes and heroines and the movements they gallantly led. We reminisce…

Our memories encapsulate those of being readily embraced and integrated into a community bound together by a shared vision, values and commitment. Our mission: the realisation of a free and life-enhancing society. We reminisce…

Tish White (Photo: Facebook)

In conversations and the resultant programmes and actions we shared an enduring faith and conviction that our work should touch all sectors and spaces of society. We believed and acted on these to raise awareness of the evils that suffocated and snuffed the beauty and essence of human potential. We reminisce…

The vision that we shared for society was, however, very lofty and the routes adopted to reach the land of promise, hope and fulfilment naturally brought about controversy and separation. Our love, care and empathy for one another endured the constraints and the hindrances that arose in our past and present circumstances. We reminisce…

We believe that, beyond all these, we shall continue to share the love for our people and inspire them as they journey to humanity’s common destiny. 

Tish White (Photo: Facebook)

Go well, Tish. We bless and celebrate your life as it lingers on in our thoughts and memories. Daughter of the African soil and Christian ambassador, Rest in Peace. You have made your selfless life contribution. We reminisce…

In Wilgespruit Fellowship Centre we found a launchpad and a platform that bridged geographical, gender, racial, class, ideological, political as well as the urban-rural-divide. We reminisce…

Go well, Tish.  May your departed soul rest in eternal peace. Amen. DM/MC

From all of us of the surviving Collegiate. 

Griffith Zabala, Joe Seoka, Ishmael Mkhabela, Sipho Masemola, Sipho Nkosi, Sipho Mashinini, Noni Mosala, Pandelani Nefholovodhwe, Duncan Mehlomakhulu, Ivan Samdaan, Ruth Bhengu and the rest of the Wilgespruit Staff. 

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