She challenged patriarchy to ascend the royal throne and has since distinguished herself as a selfless servant of the people. Benson Ntlemo pays tribute to the royal recently honoured by Unisa
WHEN Lwandlamuni Philia Nwamitwa was seven years old her father insisted that she start her schooling even though at the time girl children were not allowed or encouraged to pursue an education in the classroom.
Recently, more than 70 years late the University of South Africa conferred an honorary Doctor of Law (honoris causa) degree on Nwamitwa, now a royal leader of Valoyi traditional authority in Limpopo.
She is the first woman in the nation’s history to ascend the throne of hosi. The first and only child of Hosi Fofoza Nwamitwa and his principal wife Nkosikazi Favazi Nwamanave, she fought grueling court battles before assuming the throne left behind by her father having been denied to take up the leadership because of her gender.
“As the oldest daughter in the royal family, it was decreed that the place of royal leadership was dedicated to men and not women,” she told Mukurukuru Media.
“I decided to challenge patriarchy by claiming my rightful place as heir to the Valoyi throne and it is history that I have broken down shackles of patriarchal oppression,” she said.
She said during the time when she was fighting for her right to assume the throne she counted on the courage displayed by phenomenal women such as Lillian Ngoyi, Charlotte Maxeke, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Gertrude Shope, Baleka Mbete and Lydia Ngwenya.
“Many women gave me advise while I also drew inspiration from the women who fought against the dompas in 1956,” she said.
Her assumption to her father’s throne which seemed impossible because of the male primogeniture in the society she lived in became possible after she fought in the courts for her rights and she ultimately assumed the position of hosi following in the footsteps of her father Hosi Fofoza Nwamitwa.
After Unisa conferred a doctorate on the royal leader, Professor Tinyiko Maluleke, senior research fellow and deputy director at the University of Pretoria’s Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship hailed this as “a deserved honour and one of the finest achievements in Hosi Nwamitwa’s illustrious life of service to the people of South Africa.”
He said although every university has its own honorary degrees policy, in common was an insistence that only the highest calibre of persons are awarded these most prestigious degrees.
“At Unisa a committee of Council, the Honorary Degrees Committee, meticulously assess all nominees against the highest set of criteria, before recommending these to council of a final decision. In resolving to award the Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa to hosi Nwamitwa II, the University Council has satisfied itself that she meets the stringent criteria set out for honorary degrees’ recipients,” he said.
Renowned scholar Professor Muxe Nkondo who chairs Rixaka Forum, a cultural advocacy group and the Collins Chabane Foundation also congratulated Hosi Nwamitwa.
“The conferral of the doctorate on Hosi Nwamitwa is a visible sign and confirmation of Unisa’s vision and mission as the African university transforming itself in the service of justice, freedom and development,” he said.
In her acceptance speech, Hosi Nwamitwa II said she was dedicating it to phenomenal women whom she says were on her side in her fight against male primogeniture.
Born on 27 June 1940. she was the first born and the only child of the late Hosi Fofoza and his principal wife Favaza. Her mother passed on while she was aged 17 and she grew up with her cousin Booysen Khosa and her aunt Rose Khosa nee Nwamitwa.
At the time she was seven, girls were not allowed to go to school but her father, influenced by newly arrived Swiss missionaries sent her to school and made her an exception. Hosi Fofoza wanted his daughter to be an exception. Many parents followed suit and allowed their girl children to go to school.
After completing primary schooling in 1955, she proceeded to Shiluvana Junior primary school where she completed her junior secondary schooling in 1958. Her father entrusted a leading missionary family of Reverend Theo Schneider and his wife with the care of his daughter.
The Schneider family nurtured her and taught her how to cook, clean and conduct prayers. She was also mentored by her principals the late Mr Dapa and professor Hudson Ntsanwisi who went on to be the Chief Minister of Gazankulu homeland. These distinguished scholars imbued in her a sense of responsibility and self-pride.
Upon completion of her junior secondary she school, she went to Douglas Laing Smith, later to be known as Lemana Training College, in 1959, to train as a teacher. She also completed her senior certificate through correspondence.
She also excelled at needlework and this paid off when she was awarded a scholarship to study home economics at Mokopane College of education in 1978. She managed to get a distinction with the marks obtained unmatched to this day. Her former lecturers still refer to her achievement to this day.
Hosi Nwamitwa started her teaching profession at Fofoza primary school in 1962. She later taught at Mohlaba and Nkowankowa Primary school between 1969 and 1974. She also taught at several high schools before she was appointed lecturer at Tivumbeni College of Education from 1975 to 1977.
During her tenure as a teacher she was a celebrated choir master and her girls’ choir won many trophies locally and nationally.
A born achiever while a teacher at Nwamitwa primary she enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree with the University of South Africa and completed it in record time in 1980.
She later completed her BA honours degree in anthropology and was then appointed home economics inspector in the Gazankulu homeland. She later served the department of education with aplomb as the first woman to head the department as an inspector in 1989, a position she held until she joined politics in 1994.
In 1962 she married Thompson Shilubane, another royal who himself was a member of the Nkuna/Shilubane royal family. They were blessed with three daughters and one son. The boy died at the age of six. Her husband passed on in 1979 but she continued to look after her daughters. She has now been blessed with 10 grandchildren.
She and her husband raised many destitute children and disadvantaged relatives who are now professionals. Her passion for and outstanding knowledge of home economics and decorum saw her introduce table etiquette training in the former Gazankulu homeland. She organized women under Tzaneen Bridge Builders which she founded and contributed to uniting black and white women.
She also became the president of the Gazankulu Women’s Association and an executive member of the National Movement of Rural Women and an active member of the National Council of South African Women, both organisations having played a role in uplifting women particularly in rural Nwamitwa.
Her life is the embodiment of the Valoyi clan’s saying that vukosi i vutirheli, meaning leadership is service.
A workaholic, in 2008 she started the Valoyi Traditional Authority Trust dedicated to the upliftment of the clan. She has also several community projects under her wings. At the time of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa negotiations, she was one of the leaders who met to discuss the ushering in of the new order in South Africa as one of the leaders representing the Ximoko Party.
After the 1994 democratic election she became one of the first members of parliament under the ANC ticket after her party had joined forces with the former liberation movement.
She served as an ANC MP under four presidents namely Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma. She retired in 2014.
She is currently one of most powerful leaders amongst the Vatsonga Machangana as chairperson of the Vatsonga Machangana Royal Unity.
She is also the Deputy chair of Huvu ya Valoyinkulu, elected by members of the dynasty, chairperson of Mopani House of Traditional Leaders as well as the executive member of the Limpopo House of Traditional leaders. – Mukurukuru Media