Mrs Poppy Elizabeth Mothoa (nee Boshielo) was born on 7 August 1929 in Bronkhorstspruit, Mpumalanga, to Mr Leboti and Mrs Zipporah Boshielo. She was the first born of ten children.
She entered holy matrimony with Mr Sefako Simon Mothoa on 25 December 1949 and were blessed with ten children. The couple was married for 65 years at the time of his passing on in 2014.
Together with her late husband, Mrs Mothoa, affectionately known as Mma Mothoa, spent bouts of nomadic life with their young family looking for better opportunities in business. The entrepreneurial bug had bitten and they vowed to go against the norm to look for employment as labourers. They first moved to Jakkalsdans, then Shakung, Mogogelo and finally settled in New Eersterus in 1968.
While they established a string of businesses: a grocery shop, butchery, coal and hardware distribution, cattle and crop farming and running several taxis, Mma Mothoa’s passion and focus was in managing the shop Mothoa General Dealer. It is at the shop that she was fondly known in the Hammanskraal communities of New Eersterus and Stinkwater as the villagers did their groceries from this convenient store. This was before the advent of supermarkets and shopping malls in the nearby Hammanskraal town, Mabopane and Soshanguve townships. She enjoyed herself and found personal fulfillment from serving her communities. The communities appreciated her impeccable customer services throughout the 46 years she served them till 2016 when she took ill.
Mma Mothoa has lived a full life. She leaves a great legacy. May she be well received in the spirit world.
She believed that when women work together in the community, they can help families overcome many obstacles such as poverty, she believed no child should go to bed hungry. This conviction led her to becoming a founding member of three local women organizations dedicated to uplifting and supporting each other and their families. She was compassionate, a devout Christian, had a big heart, was a keen listener and interested in helping people from all walks of lives who came seeking counsel and all sort of assistance.
She founded a co-operative of women who made homemade bathing soap which was sold at the shop. She also organized women during maize harvesting time and encouraged them to trade their harvest with the Hammanskraal Milling company. In 2000 the Department of Trade Industry recognized Mma Mothoa with a certificate of acknowledgement as one of the leading businesswomen in the North West.
One day when a history of black entrepreneurship and its role in uplifting communities and helping to reverse the frontiers of poverty, unemployment and inequality at the behest of apartheid – particularly in rural areas – is finally written, Mma Mothoa and her husband’s names will feature prominently. These are the entrepreneurs who rode against all odds without support from the then government: there were no incentives then for black business support from government; the commercial banks were just too conservative and considered them a huge risk to provide them with loan facilities; and they still had to do business serving communities with a huge number of indigent families who received no welfare support from government. And yet they still maintained their business sustainably and profitably. Their story and experience shame the current status quo in our communities where traditional stores are closing down.
One of the community personalities who grew up under her tutelage to now become a legal advisor in the public sector commented on social media when paying tribute to this doyen of entrepreneurship: “I have fond memories of mama. During my primary school days at Kgomba we flocked GaMothoa during our lunch breaks where Mama served us soup and bread. You would hear her shouting from the back to her staff: ‘efang bana dijo mahn’ (‘serve these children with food’). We then knew that we would be served even on those days when coins were not adding up. Later in life I would pass by the shop to greet and just check how she’s doing.”
Similarly, another who grew up to become South Africa’s Consul-General to Milan, Italy, shared his fond memories too: “Most of us from New Eersterus are what we have become because we grew up looking up to MaMothoa and the old man – both calm; spirited entrepreneurs; supportive and yet strict disciplinarians (their soccer team, Eagles, was the most disciplined in Hammanskraal and had never fought their opponents even when they were losing a match – something highly lacking in many teams); highly humble and sociable (and these traits were, and still are, also reflected in all their children’s behaviours who had every reason to behave like self entitled brats and pompous but were raised to shun such); community builders; conscientious and made nobody ever feel inadequate or disadvantaged; indeed, they were every villager’s parents.”
As she entered the sunset period of her life after the passing on of her husband, she continued to work at the shop, managed the taxi business and cattle farming.
Mrs Mothoa believed in hard work and that with education came financial independence, and which gave one the opportunity to help those in need. It is with her passion for education that she served in the school governing bodies of local primary schools Mmatso and Kgomba for many years in the 1970s and 80s.
In her family and amongst her friends and community members, she lived the values of kindness, compassion, perseverance, and forgiveness. She enjoyed being a mother, not only to her children, but everyone who came looking. She loved her family, and her grandchildren were her pride and joy.
Mrs Mothoa is survived by her four daughters, Miriam, Manini, Moshidi and Zipporah, 25 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and a brother and sister.
Rest In Peace Mokone!