Celebrating the life and legacy of Zotshi Nyakathi

The life of Nomazothso Nyakathi, the first black female mayor of Ginsberg and active community leader during and after the apartheid regime, will be honoured in an exhibition at the Steve Biko Centre.

“Zotshi”, as she is affectionately known, was a pillar of the community who worked as a professional nurse, was a loving mother and a staunch black consciousness movement activist.

The Steve Biko Centre happens to be located on Zotshi Street, which was named in her honour.

In celebration of her 83rd birthday on January 18, the Steve Biko Centre will launch Zotshi: Nurse, Mayor, Mother, on January 23. Nyakathi still lives in Ginsberg.

The exhibition, curated by Dr Leslie Hadfield of the University of Michigan in the US, will feature photographs of Nyakathi during her activist days as well as letters she wrote to the government fighting for the rights of her people, while still advocating for peace.

Dr Andile M-Afrika, who was a neighbour to Biko and author of Touched By Biko, also collaborated on the exhibit.

“The exhibition aims to be the first of many that will highlight the amazing work done be selfless people who are living among us," programme co-ordinator of the Steve Biko Foundation, Kholosa Tshandana, said.

“Mama Zotshi was one of those people who boldly advocated for her community and was a mediator between the government and the community.

“The 80s were a volatile time filled with strikes and violence, but Mama Zotshi was able to lead us through such tumultuous times with grace and affection,” she said.

Nyakathi was elected by the people of Ginsberg first as a council member and later as mayor.

She trained as a nurse at Frere Hospital and worked extensively at Grey Hospital in King William’s Town and later the Ginsberg Clinic.

Tshandana said her work as a nurse had gone beyond hospital doors.

“When visiting Mama Zotshi, she told me of a story of her delivering a baby in a Ginsberg home. The mother couldn’t get to hospital and the baby was in breech. Mama Zotshi used her professional skills to deliver the baby safely. This is just one of the many stories where Mama has gone beyond the call of duty,” Tshandana said.

The Ginsberg Creche, which still runs today, was formed by Nyakathi through her philanthropy work.

It helps improve the lives of children who