Dr Sam and Mrs Jocelyn Motsuenyane’s 95th and 90th Birthdays Celebration

SATURDAY OF March 5, 2022 had all roads, including a gravel one, leading to the joint birthdays celebration of Dr Sam and Mrs Jocelyn Motsuenyane, at 10 Morgan in Winterveld.

Well-wishers, young and adult, of the farming clan, Bakwena-ba-Modimosana, converged on a the Motsuenyane’s plot dotted by Marula, grapefruit, orange, lemon, guava, and pomegranate trees to celebrate the birthdays of the doyen of Black South African business and his wife of 68 years, on a sunny late summer afternoon.

A big white marquee erected specially for the occasion dominated a huge yard occupied by guests’ vehicles as well as a tractor hinting at the sort of occupation the bespectacled white-haired sage is involved in.  Inside the marquee decorated with bouquets of white and off-pink roses, the ambience was accentuated by colourful traditional garb donned by guests in adherence to the dress code requested on the invitation.

Assuming a mainly gospel touch, the programme of the day was punctuated by an impressive live music band which entertained attendees with Sankomota, Tshepo Tshola and Hugh Masekela songs.

The gospel theme to proceedings per se was in keeping with the celebrating nonagenarian couple’s Christian and ‘twas a revelation to learn that the Black empowerment exponent who defied apartheid throughout his business career has along been a God-fearing devotee who, in spite of moving amongst the pomp of society’s high rollers, is a life-long teetotaler.

Even the champagne for the toast was non-alcoholic.

Although a moment to celebrate the elderly couple’s milestones and contributions, speakers on the programme also hinted at the business-minded nature of the Motsuenyane clan, as demonstrated by one having copies of, Tlhago Ya Bakwena-ba-Mmatau Le Kutu Ya Se-Motsuenyane – a book breaking down the family tree rooted in farming the land – and encouraging guests to purchase copies, whilst another chipped in by reminding attendees to also buy copies of Dr Motsuenyane’s biography: The Testament of Hope.

When a right-of-reply opportunity was granted to the couple, after a succession of glowing tributes from well-wishers such as former South African Cabinet Minister, Lulu Xingwana, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, 90-year-old Jocelyn, who looked the part in an ankle length light pink dress, took guests down memory lane by mentioning difficult moments the family had had to endure during their time together. 

Still sprightly and of a sharp memory, the yellow-skinned Swati from Standerton in Mpumalanga who used to be a schoolteacher related a juncture in 1986 when she got incarcerated by the then Bophuthatswana authorities for seizing the cudgels of Winterveld hawkers over an issue of trading permits. 

She proudly mentioned that her husband brought her home-cooked food for the duration of her imprisonment at the Ga-Rankuwa Police Station.  The elderly lady also recalled how the Winterveld community rallied around the family in rebuilding their house after it had burnt to the ground in 1983.

Mme Motsuenyane further pointed out that although they have a helper on their homestead, she still fixed her husband a cup of tea and enthusiastically added that she makes tomato, lemon, orange and mango jams.  In fact, on one of the video clips beaming messages on the screens inside the marquee, one of her grandchildren, Obakeng, enthused, “I’d like to think that I’m a good cook because of you nkgono!” 

Came his turn, the bespectacled white-haired erstwhile ambassador to Saudi Arabia, cutting a dapper figure with the resplendence rounded off by a white Ndebele patterned hat, regaled guests with time-worn wisdom as well as caring tributes and gratitude to both his dedicated wife, remaining children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, business associates as well as members of his clan.

The former NAFCOC pioneer – along with friend and one-time Dube Village neighbour, the late Dr Richard Maponya – used the occasion to remind guests of the imperativeness of being guided by principles and the consciousness of not compromising both one’s name and family’s by succumbing to vices such as corruption. 

An example of practicing what he preached, Motsuenyane decline a government offer to tar a gravel road leading to his homestead, with him requesting that no favour be shown to him and rather tar a road commonly utilized by the surrounding community.

They alluded to business mindedness inherent within the clan extends to land, none more so as typified by Dr Motsuenyane’s passion as a citrus farmer who supplies supermarkets – as well as being an exemplary scion whose huge yard is laden with an impressive plethora of fruit trees, a vegetables garden and bee hives.

The duo had met at the Alexandra Methodist Church back in 1954 where they were both Sunday school teachers.  

Back then, she was still a schoolteacher and he was a social worker prior to his leading the charge of Black business empowerment.  The numbers associated with their union amounted to insurmountable arithmetic: he, 95, she, 90, in matrimony for 68 years, parents to six sons (with only two now left), eleven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

The founder of the African Bank attribute forgiveness, love and happiness as factors which have maintained their lengthy marriage.

Amongst the guests was businessman, Moss Mashishi, who mentioned that his mother grew up in the Motsuenyane’s house whilst they still resided in Dube.  He lauded, “They are iconic figures in our society and our generation appreciates the example of their lives!”

Later in the afternoon, cameras clicked and flashed whilst the couple cut a double-tiered cake also symbolizing 68 years of their union.

Said the soft-spoken but no-nonsense 95-year-old sage who encourages chastity before marriage and fidelity thereafter, “I’m happy because behind me, I leave some legacy that South Africa can follow.” 

Images Jacob MAWELA (The joint birthdays celebration of Dr Sam and Mrs Jocelyn Motsuenyane, at 10 Morgan in Winterveld, NW).

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