Mamakopo Kgomo-Mathebula was brought up in a household characterised by frustration and domestic violence which sparked her inquisitiveness regarding the dynamics of a tranquil home environment. Her affection, compassion, and concern for younger children is the reason for her decision to pursue a career in social work.
Kgomo-Mathebula, born and bred in Atteridgeville, Tshwane, leads a busy life. When she is not in the communities, she spends her time at shelters, orphanages, or old age homes.
She co-founded Mama-Afrika Resource Centre, an organisation based in KwaLanga. Its mission is to provide essential information for healthy living and to eliminate chronic lifestyle diseases.
Despite residing in Cape Town on Marine Drive, her life has had its ups and downs. Regardless of everything in between, giving up was never an option.
Due to the apartheid regime, she relocated to various locations in Tshwane, Johannesburg, and Cape Town.
The start of a nightmare
She tells Health For Mzansi that her mother had married her stepfather in the 1970s when she was just four years old. As a result, she was sent to live with her aunt in Mabopane.
Her mother’s divorce in 1981 prompted her to help out in the household. She was 12 years old and would skip school two days a week in order to provide food for her family.
“I worked at a mealie and nuts farmer for three months in Pankop, a few kilometres away from Atteridgeville. The tractor would come and pick us up early in the mornings,” she says.
Several teachers observed her frequent absences from school, and as a result, she was physically punished for her absences from school. In a few months, they left Mabopane for Atteridgeville.
Involvement in the healthcare sector
She first heard of the late Winnie Madikizela Mandela in 1976, and she grew fond of her, how she conducted herself during media appearances, and her community role, Kgomo-Mathebula says.
“If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am now. She helped me realise that it is possible to show concern and compassion towards others. Even if you are broken yourself.”
She enrolled in social work studies at Unisa through Abet education. After getting married, Kgomo-Mathebula continued to learn more.
She has an extensive work history that includes employment with organisations such as the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, the Life Church Aids Resource Centre, the Medical Knowledge Institute, the University of Cape Town, Cansa, the Western Cape Department of Health, The Zanokhanyo Network, the Islamic Social Welfare Association, Unisa, and Ntsako High School. Additionally, she has also dedicated some of her time to volunteering.
She has 11 years of experience as a registered social auxiliary worker in the Cape Metro Area, and an additional seven years of experience as a health facilitator and health researcher. During this time, she has empowered communities by providing them with relevant information regarding healthcare and chronic illnesses.
‘We need to modify the rules’
Mamakopo says her observations of various communities have led her to realise that many people, particularly in the Cape Metro and surrounding areas, have become accustomed to receiving compensation.
She says people are unlikely to attend a venue if there is no provision for food and transport expenses.
“Our people need to learn that not every valuable thing will be provided by government or sponsors.”
She emphasises those who have gone through a certain experience possess a certain level of knowledge and expertise that can be shared with others. Some people find it fulfilling to give back to their community by sharing their knowledge and skills.
“We still have a long way to go if we want our people to be fairly compensated for their own benefit.”
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