Former principal was family’s ‘pillar’


There has been an outpouring of gratitude and praise for former school principal and 2006 Grahamstown Citizen of the Year, Nontsikelelo ‘Ntsiki’ Mpahlwa-Mene, as her family, former pupils and the community mourn her death.

Mpahlwa-Mene was found at her home on Saturday. Both the police and the family said no foul play was suspected. According to the family, she suffered from a terminal medical condition.

Family spokesperson Mzukisi Mpahlwa said his niece had raised the alarm when Ntsiki failed to answer her phone after repeated calls. When family members went to her Cradock Heights home, their concern grew when they saw washing hanging on the line that appeared to have been there for days. The house was locked and the last time anyone had heard from her was 30 April.

Mpahlwa, who is Ntsiki’s cousin, said a locksmith had opened the house under the supervision of the police and they’d found her lying on the floor.

“She lived alone,” Mpahlwa said. “We think she probably fell and was unable to get up. It could have happened any time between Monday and Saturday.”

Ntsiki was the only child of Tholoma Mpahlwa. At 26 years of age she left a secure job at Rhodes University to study Matric full-time at Nathaniel Pamela in Peddie.

Ntsiki went on and completed a BA degree and a B. Ed Honours degree from Vista University. She taught in numerous schools including in Peddie, Fort Beaufort, Alicedale and lastly in Grahamstown as a Principal at CM Vellem Junior Secondary School Principal, where she retired.

“While not having children of her own, Ntsiki took under her wing a number of underprivileged school children in all the schools where she taught,” Mpahlwa said.

She adopted all the children of her cousins and made sure that they received the best possible education.  

“Truly a pillar in the family, a generous person has passed away in the most tragic circumstances,” Mpahlwa said. “The family is grateful for the outpouring support it received from the community of Grahamstown.”

Nontsikelelo Mpahlwa-Mene leaves behind her aunt, Nozipho, six cousins and numerous nieces and nephews. A memorial service was held for her Thursday 10 May and Grocott’s Mail will share funeral details when these are finalised.

The community has expressed shock and sadness at Ntsiki’s death. These are some of the comments posted on social media:

Jill Rothman: “My condolences to the family – remembered for the difference she made in the lives of children in need. RIP.”

Luvuyo Mjekula: “I worked with this mother… she was a kind-hearted person.”

Zukiswa Gubevu: “Umama wethu kwi Casual Day, uncumo lwakho uthando lwakho amazwi akho. We bumped into her at PepperGrove Mall, she promised to be part of Casual Day for 2018 as usual, we are still shocked but your ideas will keep us going at Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities in Makana (APD Makana) Condolences to her family.”

Lumka Matthews: “A beautiful soul,full of love and faith, ascended to heaven,away from us but closer to God leaving loneliness and sadness. We will miss u Mam Mphahlwa siyabulela ngemfundiso zakho ukuthethela phantsi, imbeko zange ndazilibala at Hendrik Kanise e Alicedale.”

Candice Louw-Arnolds: “Rest in peace Ma’am Mene. A true lady you have been, a woman of impeccable character. Will never forget you.”

Annalie van Niekerk : “Very sad to hear of the passing of such a remarkable woman. May she Rest In Peace and rise in glory.”

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