Flanked by the bereaved family of the late Afasa president, Dr Vuyo Mahlati, Mzansi’s agricultural community said their last goodbyes to the “seasoned agricultural patriot” at the Pretoria Country Club in Waterkloof, Gauteng today.
Among the mourners were political leaders, land reform activists, farmers and other agricultural leaders sharing their memories of the 55-year-old Mahlati, who died a week ago following complications from an operation. Mahlati was the chairperson of pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisory panel on land reform and agriculture.
‘Mama was walking impact’
Mahlati’s daughter, Lilitha, described her mother as a woman who took Africa to the world. Fighting back the tears, Lilitha told mourners, “It was great working with her and really understanding how she viewed the world as well as learning the art of embedding impact into every single thing we do.
“That’s who mama was,” said Lilitha. “She was impact. In fact, she was walking impact and there was nothing that she would not do if it meant that it would change or transform or impact people across the country – especially in the Eastern Cape where her heart lies.”
Lilitha worked closely with her mother at their company Ivili Loboya, a wool processing facility at Ibika near Butterworth in the Eastern Cape. She also shared tributes from some of their workers who are saddened by Mahlati’s death.
“How does one speak of Dr Vuyo MAHLATI in the past tense when her works is still very much in our presence?” – THOKO DIDIZA, minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development
Laid to rest on the land that she loved
Mahlati’s son, Siseko, spoke of his mother’s humility and thanked dignitaries, invited speakers and others who attended the official Afasa celebration of his mother’s life.
“As humble as she was, mom never mentioned the type of people she surrounded herself with. To a point that even her family members only found out about some of her achievements the same time as everyone else, in the news,” Siseko recalled with laughter.
Confirming that his mother was not feeling well in her last days, Siseko said Mahlati insisted to continue working at full capacity.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of my mother, but I think we are truly thankful for the life she gave. She gave everything that she could and more. It has come to that time when my mother will be laid to rest on the land that she dedicated her life to.”
Didiza praises friend and colleague
Among the grieving mourners was the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, who took to stage singing “Sizo hlangana e’masimini”, a farmer’s song which roughly translates to “We will meet at planting fields.”
In her moving tribute Didiza said, “How does one speak of Vuyo in the past tense when her works is still very much in our presence? When they say we will meet in the fields, indeed we will meet in the fields that Vuyo is in today.”
Praising the late Mahlati for her leadership style and commitment, Didiza added that it was her clarity of mind which made it possible for people to buy into her vision. Despite her academic achievements, Mahlati was always found amongst those who were oppressed and marginalised, Didiza said.
The minister told mourners that government had already started implementing many of the revered leader’s recommendations. Among those is the beneficiary selection policy surrounding land and clear policies on land donations.
“We may not be there yet on all the recommendations that you (Mahlati) asked us to actually undertake, but we are on course,” Didiza stated. She thanked Mahlati’s children for allowing their mother to serve her mission and the nation with distinction.
Meanwhile tributes were also shared by the heads of Afasa commodities NERPO (National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation), SAFDA (The South African Farmers Development Association), SASA (The South African Sugar Association), SAGRA (South African Grain Farmers Association) and AGRA (African Game Ranchers Association).
Other leader farmers, including Matlla Motsepe from the National African Farmers’ Union (Nafu) and Dan Kriek, a Free State farmer and former president of AgriSA, also participated in the programme. In a voice note message Kriek described Mahlati as an irreplaceable leader who will be sincerely missed.
“I’ve been thinking about her enormous contribution to the agricultural sector. If we want to honour her legacy, we must keep on working tirelessly to develop black commercial farmers and dedicate ourselves to the fight for equality,” he said.