Soga memorial unveiled
It was slated for neglecting the life and times of South African intellectual and Presbyterian minister Tiyo Soga.
Thousands of people, including former president Thabo Mbeki, attended the unveiling of a monument to Soga at Thuthura village, near Centane, on Friday.
Soga, who died 140 years ago, was also a renowned journalist and songwriter who had a major influence on the church’s mission work around the country.
Yet, until now, his grave in Centane has been almost unrecognisable.
Investment company Wiphold co-founder Gloria Serobe , who is also from Centane, told the gathering on Friday that when she returned home earlier this year, she was unable to identify the grave due to its state of neglect.
The unveiling was attended by more than 2500 people, including Soga’s relatives from Scotland, South African dignitaries, church leaders, businessmen and traditional leaders.
Apart from Mbeki, dignitaries included the former head of the Methodist Church of South Africa Bishop Mvume Dandala, former University of Cape Town vice-chancellor Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet and other members of parliament.
Serobe, who arranged the event, drew dismay from the crowd when she said that during her visit to the province in January, she had decided to visit Soga’s grave.
“When I came here, I could not identify the grave. I had to make a call to the local headman to find the location of the grave,” she said, adding that she was shocked to find she had actually been standing near the grave when she made the call.
Together with two other major private companies, Serobe approached the Soga family and the government to assist in upgrading the grave and to erect a monument that would signify “Tiyo’s legacy to the people of the Eastern Cape”.
AmaGcaleka Chief Zwelonke Sigcawu also lashed out at government officials present at the function.
“I hope you are not here today to hijack this event and turn it into your event,” he said.
“For many years we have put in countless requests for the government to come and repair Soga’s grave, but to no avail.
“We must get one thing clear, this is not your [government officials] event, but the event of the people,” Sigcawu said.
Speaking to the Daily Dispatch after the event, Soga’s great grandson Pethuxolo Soga said the turnout had been “tremendous”.
“A lot of people who we never thought would attend are here today.”
Earlier he had delivered a speech thanking Mbeki for his presence.