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The Magic that was Dr. Vuyo Mahlati: A tribute to a Pioneer of Women Development

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Contributors: Vani Moodley, Bongi Kunene, Thelela Ngcetane-Vika and Nosipho Damasane

“I first met Dr. Mahlati in the early 2000s when she was requested by Dr. Namane Magau, then President of the Business Women’s Association of South Africa, to grace the business awards ceremony hosted by the organization in Durban as the guest of honor. We subsequently engaged on various platforms and the founder of Women Building our Africa Financial Services Primary Co-operative, Mrs. Bea Hackula, invited Dr. Mahlati to serve on the board of the organization after she participated as a founding member. Due to her commitments, she had to decline the invitation but remained a loyal advocate and shareholder.

“Dr. Mahlati had a strong passion for the economic empowerment of women and worked tirelessly in this space. Her quiet demeanor and humility were admirable. Her dynamism captured audiences of all ages. Dr. Mahlati has left a void, not only in the sisterhood that we all share but also in those sectors in which she played an active role. This will not be the end of her journey and everything she stood for. She has left behind footprints for us to follow.  The challenge now is for us all to carry on with our shared vision as she would have. Let us honor her life and deliver on our joint vision to change the lives of every woman in our country and beyond – to create a better world of economic freedom.” Vani Moodley – Chairman, Women Building our Africa Financial Services.

“She had the ability to work with grassroots women and farmers. She competently consulted and led high-level discussions on matters of national and international policy. I was exposed to her indefatigable energy while at The Presidency under the leadership of Presidents Mbeki, Monthlante, and Zuma. Her viewpoints transcended politics and personalities.  She presented her arguments with characteristic integrity. She was highly regarded in the Southern Africa region by business and political leaders who directly sought her inputs in the design of their respective economic growth plans. She was highly regarded in the investments sector. Essentially Vuyo was a woman of worth.” Bongi Kunene

“Truly, she was special and one of the all-time greats.  Her influence seems ubiquitous. Her greatness was in her ability to serve others through her unique, humble, inclusive, and transformative leadership and demonstrable commitment to development and social justice. She understood that, until rural women are empowered and developed, this nation will continue to battle for years to close gaps of inequality and poverty. She made an incisive observation on the demographics that show we have more rural women and consequently, any policy development should target its interventions to uplift them. She walked the talk! She endeavored to give rural women the dignity they deserve.” Thelela Ngcetane-Vika

Dr. Vuyo has carved her name in our hearts. A legacy that will remain etched in the minds of all those who have been touched by her life.  When people, such as Dr. Vuyo happen to cross one’s path, it is my hope that they will never be taken for granted. I am grateful I never did. To Gilimamba, Siseko, Lilitha, Vukile, and Mama, you have lost a child, wife, mother, and sister. The world has lost an Icon. As Siseko, her son puts it, “It was amazing to know you.”

We now have to contend with this reality – she no longer belongs to us; she now belongs to the ages.

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