On Sunday March 1, young and old gathered in Langa to pay tribute to and celebrate the life of well-known community builder, Phumla Mayaba, as she turned 83-years-old.
Filled with glitz, glamour and fashion, the red-carpet event was attended by friends and family where Ms Mayaba was hailed as a committed community builder due to her pioneering work in the informal settlements and the townships around Cape Town, a grassroots-based career which spanned over a period of 30 years.
A qualified professional nurse and midwife, Ms Mayaba and her late husband, Leonard Mayaba, were among the first successful black business people during the turbulent 1960s to operate in the townships.
The couple ran a successful general dealer/grocery shop in NY 110, Gugulethu, from 1969 to 1987.
Popularly known at the time as “Kwa Number Four”, the business enterprise served the Section 3 community with distinction.
When asked about the challenges of running a business as a black woman at the height of the apartheid system in the sixties, Ms Mayaba recalled: “We always had to be on the lookout for the police who would often arrive unexpectedly to arrest our workers who did not have the dreaded pass books.
“Upon hearing the screeching tyres as the vans stopped, the workers would dash towards the back of the shop and jump over the gate to avoid arrest.
“This would leave the business with virtually no staff for the day except myself and my husband.”
She continued: “But we had to respond to the cries of the community because black people needed businesses within their communities that catered to their specific needs.
“We worked long hours, from 5.30am to 9pm in order to serve the early-risers as they walked to Heideveld train station to catch the first train to work.
“We closed late at night in order to make sure that as the workers came back from work, they could buy whatever food items they needed to prepare supper for their families.
“The shop sold every item you can think of, from paraffin to pantihose, a real general dealership.”
In 1987 Ms Phumla Mayaba joined the South African Red Cross Society where she spearheaded the HIV/Aids home-based care programme until her retirement in 2005.