Gogo's white friend
It was in 1951 when my great grandfather passed away leaving eight children behind. Dorothy Mfaco (Gogo) then moved to District 6, Cape Town hoping to find work. Living with her aunt she did get a job which she would soon lose after the Group Areas Act.
Moved to Gugulethu by the apartheid government Gogo could only work as a domestic worker due to the lack of transport to Town but even that did not work out well as she quickly became aware of the racism at that time. Gogo with her son Damda Mfaco took up active roles as anti-apartheid activists.
Gogo's work with the United Women's Organisation exposed her to other like-minded women. Women of all races united for a cause and that did not go down well with the apartheid government as the women were suspected of being the messengers to exiled members of the liberation movement.
Gogo lost her son but that did not in any way demotivate her, it just motivated her to keep going stronger and stronger. She was arrested while on her way to a women's conference in Zimbabwe. Detained and tortured at the Ravensmead police station with other activists.
During this time I was a toddler, had no idea what was going on, had not even met Gogo. After being released she still continued with her work. Gogo visited Transkei for a family ritual, during this time she shared her stories with us as kids.
One part of her stories that inspired me to write this was when Gogo was running away from the apartheid government. She told us that as activists they had to go into hiding as they were being harassed in their homes.
When the police were after them, white anti-apartheid activists provided shelter for them. The torture was just too much, some would ask the police "why don't you just kill me?" Gogo said she lived with a nice white friend but did not mention the name of that white friend as we were kids and would have probably not been able to pronounce the names.
Last week I learned who that nice white friend was. In 2008, I attended a workshop at the City of Cape Town's civic. When I introduced myself to the Mayor Helen Zille, the first thing she asked was "how is Mama Mfaco?"
I wondered how she knew my granny but could not ask as she was rushing to the airport so I could only greet and not talk to Helen.
Last week on her twitter page, Helen asked if I'm related to Dorothy Mfaco. And I said yes then she told me that she had stayed with her sometime in the 80s. I was like WOW! Helen Zille is the nice white woman who gave my granny shelter? Being a DA supporter I thought I knew Helen but clearly not.
After receiving death threats one would think Zille would stop speaking out against apartheid but it only motivated her to stop speaking out by resigning as a reporter and start being actively involved by joining the Blacksash and work with other anti-apartheid activists. Zille was arrested for being in the "wrong" area because Zille believed South Africa was for all the people and people should be free to be where ever they want to be. What I find most interesting is how a system that sought to literally separate Gogo and Zille ended up bringing them under one roof.
In my world while growing up in rural Transkei there was no black and white, I played and even slept over at my white friend's place. We all spoke one language - Xhosa - and some of the "white" kids even performed the initiation ritual because they wanted to enjoy the same privileges that their Xhosa friends enjoy at ceremonies such as weddings and other traditional ceremonies where men eat amongst men and boys eat amongst boys.
If that relationship between Zille and Gogo existed in the 80s, why is it difficult to build such relationships now where we work hand in hand building this country? Zille was actually annoyed with the title "Gogo's white friend"; she asked, why put the word "white" because I was just her friend.
Helen Zille you are indeed our Iron Lady.
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