Cedric Mboyisa

The memorial service of the late legendary sugarcane farmer Victoria Khuzwayo (76) turned into a celebration of a life well lived.

Above: The late Victoria Khuzwayo

“The sugar industry has lost a giant! We mourn the death of a stalwart, but we also celebrate her legacy which will occupy the annals of the sugar industry history for evermore. Mama Khuzwayo was a phenomenal woman and an eternal optimist whose inspirational style of leadership propelled her community to greater heights of success,” said Portia Mpofu, External Affairs Director at the South African Sugar Association.

Speaker after speaker at the memorial service held in Glendale heaped praise on Khuzwayo, a domestic worker turned sugarcane farmer, who was the force behind the revitalisation of the Glendale Valley. She was the chairperson of the Mansomini Irrigation Cooperative, comprising small-scale growers, which was established in 1982 and thriving until the Glendale Mill closed in the late 1990s, forcing the project to crumble.

“With the help of the Gledhow Sugar Company and government, Mama Khuzwayo and other small-scale growers (mainly women) set out to bring the valley back to life… the life of sugarcane growing. They obtained finance (a loan) to the tune of R3.5 million from the
Micro Agricultural Finance Institute of South Africa via the South African Sugar Association. There was an additional R2 million grant from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s Recapitalisation and Development Programme. The Mansomini Irrigation Co-operative was re-born,” said Mpofu.

The cooperative became a model project, with Khuzwayo’s monumental efforts hailed by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, the Honourable Gugile Nkwinti, and other ministers who visited the stalwart to learn more from her. Minister Kwinti’s message was read out at the memorial service: “Very sad news about Gogo. My wife and I send our deep condolences to the family and condolences.”

Other speakers hailed Khuzwayo for her humility, spirit of Ubuntu, honesty and transparency. “The Lord has called our mother. We thank God for our mom. We grew up in a cane growing environment which our mom was so passionate about. We are not crying today but rejoicing… in the life well lived. Our mom did all she wanted to do while she was here on earth,” said Busisiwe Khuzwayo-Mbiyo, one of her children.

Speaking on behalf of Qwabe Development Secondary Cooperative, of which Khuzwayo was a former chairperson, Siyabonga Madlala said, “Mrs V Khuzwayo discovered me. I am what I am today because of her. She is indeed the greatest leader I have ever met in my life. She imparted in me resilience, wisdom, love and humility. She may be gone but she will never be forgotten. The whole country, in particular the Glendale Valley, has lost a hero and leader of note. May her soul rest in peace.”