The Mercury

Zuma says ouma was ‘wonderful’

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WHEN Johanna Cecilia du Plessis put her mind to something, nothing could stop her. Especially when it came to giving President Jacob Zuma a piece of that mind.

For a year-and-a-half, she hounded the premier’s office in Gauteng until someone gave her the phone number for the Presidency.

“There’s a Mrs Du Plessis who wants to speak to you,” the president was informed, back in his office. With a brief break in his busy schedule, he took the call.

When the 79-year-old ouma (grandmothe­r) was buried yesterday after a painful battle with stomach cancer, the president was in the front row at her funeral service.

The funeral was organised by the Jacob Zuma Foundation when, two weeks after she passed away, the family contacted Zuma, asking for help: they could not afford a funeral and their ouma’s body was still lying in the mortuary.

Yesterday, with the local Zionist Christian Church choir filling the afternoon with praise, Du Plessis’ multiracia­l, bilingual family cried together and clung to one another as the president recalled their friendship.

“She explained to me that she wanted to see me, that she had issues to raise with me,” said Zuma. “She kept phoning and I kept responding and we developed a friendship.”

At a rally for the elderly in Tembisa a few months later, the wheelchair-bound ouma shook hands with the president of the country. “She was absolutely wonderful to be with, and she was quite assertive. She told me what her needs were.... She was a person who, if she thought something was wrong, she spoke out and told you it was wrong. Her heart was warm.”

It was her warmth and assertiven­ess that had seen her raise three children alone. When her eldest granddaugh­ter Veronica Luboya-Muanza found herself in an abusive relationsh­ip, ouma who took her in.

Du Plessis leaves two daughters, 10 grandchild­ren and four great-grandchild­ren.

“This is a great family, a truly South African family,” said Zuma. “Let us celebrate her life, because she lived.” – Mercury Correspond­ent

 ?? PICTURE: ZIPHOZONKE LUSHABA ?? President Jacob Zuma and Veronica Luboya-Muanza during the funeral of Johanna Cecilia du Plessis in Randburg yesterday.
PICTURE: ZIPHOZONKE LUSHABA President Jacob Zuma and Veronica Luboya-Muanza during the funeral of Johanna Cecilia du Plessis in Randburg yesterday.

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