A tribute to Sir George Mpiti

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By Mzwandile Mpiti

SIR GEORGE VUYISILE MPITI
*28.05.1928
+10.03.2020

George Vuyisile Mpiti populary known as Sir George by the people of KwaBhaca was born in 1928 in the rural areas of Nomkholokotho also here in KwaBhaca. He was the first son of the late Abel Mpiti and Georgina Mpiti born of the Ngobozana family, from the Bhele clan.

His father Abel Mpiti built his home at Mpoza to be next to his wife’s family. He started his school at Mpoza Primary and later moved to Lutateni Primary School with his cousin Taylor Nqakwana. Mr Elliot Ntakamanzi Qulu said they did not see eye with these two boys from Mpoza in so much that they would chase them after school until they sought refuge in the shop owned by late Mr Jongilanga Mfingwana.

After finishing his primary and secondary education his father Abel Mpiti wanted Sir George to go and work in the mines. His mother refused the idea and he sent her son to Shawbury College to study to become a teacher. This is where he first saw the lady from Chisana clan, Alicia Nomthunzi Nanto but did not propose.

Due to the non-availability of teaching post at the time Sir George went to Livingstone Hospital with his longtime friend Mr Mbutsi to train as a Nurse. It was later here again at Livingstone Hospital where he again met his school mate at Shawbury, Alicia Nomthunzi Nanto who was also training as a nurse. Sir George Mpiti finally had the courage to propose, and ask for Nomthunzi’s hand in marriage.

To Sir George’s joy, she accepted his offer of marriage and they got married and were blessed with 5 sons and a daughter: *Mziwandile Mpiti who became a teacher, *Mzimkhulu Mpiti who became a teacher, *Mthunzi Mpiti who left school in matric at Colana SSS and joined the armed struggle in Exile under the banner of the Pan African Congress armed wing the Azanian People Liberation Army, *the late Mziwamadoda Mpiti who became an Engineer, working at South African Breweries for many years in South Africa and Kenya, *Mzingisi Mpiti who became a marketer working in the travel & tourism industry lastly *Sivuyile Mpiti-Mali, a Psychology Rhodes Graduate who worked in the travel & tourism industry for many years as well as the 2010 Local Organising Committee.

Sir George left Port Elizabeth and the nursing profession to run his father’s business in Mpoza, Mount Frere. This decision led to the breakup of his marriage and a later divorce from Nomthunzi Nanto.

Sir George settled well in Mount Frere and raised his children with a huge focus of hardwork, discipline, love of God, love of family and respect for one’s culture and community. He found love again when he met Nothemba Millicent Garane from the Khumalo clan. They married and were blessed with 2 sons and a daughter; *Mluleki Mpiti a Mechanical Engineer, *Mawande Mpiti also a Mechanical Engineer for Barloworld Equipment and  *Vuyokazi Mpiti who studied law at University of Transkei. All three children are now entrepreneurs in their own right.

As an entrepreneur, Sir George Mpiti thrived in business and was a pioneer of many businesses. Sir George and Nothemba Mpiti established and operated trading stations in an area called Trans Kinira. They traded at their main station Yizani Nonke Store, Sthinteni, Colana and Mtsila.

As an entrepreneur, Sir George brought various services to his beloved community. George was simultaneously a shopkeeper, credit provider, messenger, a banker, farmer and undertaker. He seamlessly juggled the following community roles and services for over 70 years :

• As Credit provider he sold goods to local people on credit without doing any credit checks with the hope that people will pay back. People were able to build their homes as they were given building material on credit. With Nothemba Mpiti at the helm credit checks were now done and people who were bad payers were blacklisted and refused credit.

• As a Messenger they would receive telegrams from companies in major cities where people worked in mines. These telegrams in red envelopes people were afraid of them as they were bringing messages of death. Sir George Mpiti had to go to those families and give them the sad news that their family member has passed away in Johannesburg and comfort the family.

• As a Banker government employees dependant on them to cash their cheques and cash cheques for people who receive social grants from government and also mine-workers.

• As a farmer, he kept large herds of cattle, many donkeys and cultivated vast hectares of land with maize which he used to feed his livestock. Young boys from Mpoza would come to him every morning to work in the fields and enjoy free rides doing deliveries. In today’s term of democracy that would be regarded as abuse of child labour laws. But young boys enjoyed working as they knew on weekends and December holidays they were given free transport on his trucks for Mawande and Mluleki to drive them to friendly soccer matches at Rhode and Mtsila.

• He was also an undertaker as in those days there were no mortuaries, the shop kept coffins and people would come to buy coffins and black cloth to cover the coffin. In those days shops closed at 13h00 it was Sir George’s way of showing respect and sympathy to the bereaved family. They stopped acting as an undertaker when late Sizwe Ferguson Gwiji opened the first mortuary in Mt Frere Inkumbulo Yesizwe.

As a Christian he was a member of Young-man’s Guild of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa of the Clarkebury District.

Socially, Sir George’s home was a hive of activity on Saturdays and Sundays afternoon Business personalities from across Umzimvumbu river would come in their nice vehicles and trucks. Mr Larry Zembe of Cancele who dressed immaculately would be driving his yellow Valiant Charger CDS 707, Mr Dana Mfingwana in his Chev Elcarnino 308 V8, Mrs Nomvuyo Faye driving in her Mazda Truck, and Mr Nota driving in his Mercedes 508 truck. They wanted to form a central buying organisation.

On Sunday afternoons after church services they would have meetings of business people from Trans Kinira, Mr Dinga Ngejane from Mdakeni, Mr Tlati Makaula in Mgugundlovu, Mr Dlephu, Mrs & Mr Maqhashalala, Mrs Thandeka Qulu, Mrs Mfingwana and Mr Ncaphai, you could see that the business men from across Umzimvumbu were well up to do than those from Trans Kinira may be because of close proximity to town. This group also had the same ideas Mrs Muriel Faye took a bold step and opened Transkei Malinge Wholesalers with Mr Mawonga Lungangolo as a Manager.

When rural shopkeepers were moving to town to buy goods Sir George and his friend Mr Thilati Makaula were reluctant to move still believing in rural development. One young businessman Luyola Makaula used to complain to Sir George that had they bought goods in town earlier than they did he would not be working today as he would still be enjoying the fruits of his father’s labour.

Nothemba persuaded Sir George to take a bold step and move to town for better business opportunities. An opportunity came when Transkei Development Co-operation put up for sale Champions Wholesalers. Nothemba and Sir George heard that there was a Ntabankulu businessman by the name of Mr J.S Mzaza who had lots of money lying idle in Standard Bank Mount Frere, they approached him to loan them the money to buy the property, now operating as Build It and Sasol Garage. They opened their first wholesaler called Mount Frere Wholesaler to serve the group Trans Kinirha from. Afterwards they moved up town and opened Kotheyikothayo Supermarket, Zabesuthu Supermarket, they moved to Qumbu and open Quality Supermarket. After Qumbu they moved back to Mount Frere and developed the property operated by Boxer Superstore and also developed Sasol Garage. They opened Captain Deregos in Mt Frere, East London and Lusikisiki. As natural born farmer he brought his livestock to town from rural areas breaking all municipal bylaws.

When they arrived in Mount Frere Sir George became friends with the late Mount Frere businessman Mr LCM Ludidi whom he had known from the early 70s when Mr Ludidi operated  a trading station in Sulenkama Qumbu, Sir George was working at Knessie Knight hospital, Mr LCM Ludidi advised them that business in rural areas has gone down and  people should diversify, he himself Mr Ludidi cultivated Lands with his fleet of Landini tractors and told him that this is a seasonal job which is not sustainable and he also operated his fleet of Toyota tripper trucks for road construction. He advised his friend Sir George to not try to do what he was doing because he will go bankrupt. Mr Ludidi advised him that the best way to go is property development. He said whenever there is an auction of property in distress go and bid and later develop it. He said property is less volatile.

Also in Mount Frere he met Dr Mxolisi Ngcwabe who became his personal physician. They would sometimes disagree on diagnosis, telling the Doctor that he also is a health practitioner and doctors get information from nurses to diagnose an illness. They later became good friends and he was now taking instructions from the doctor. With his treatment plan the doctor was able to help prolong his life until God said Dr Ngcwabe its now my time to take over caring for the life of the legendary Sir George Mpiti.

Mr Frank Steady and Mrs G.B Zihle said Sir George was their role model and looked upon him for advice. Mr Steady said he knew Sir George when he used to deliver maize to his shops and when they worked cultivating people lands.   

Sir George encouraged unity in his family, and in the Maduna Clan. He was quiet, firm and a peaceful man who did not like conflict. He liked things to be done orderly, with discipline and respect and he loved education. He loved all his children, grandchildren and the entire clan yooMaduna namaBhele dearly. He hated ill-discipline among young people and encouraged hard work amongst the community of Mpoza. People of Mpoza and the Chief were not pleased when he moved away from his community of Mpoza to town as they lost their benefactor and a role model.

He is survived by his wife Nothemba Mpiti , six sons, two daughters, fifteen grandchildren and three beloved sisters. Rest in peace Maduna, Nokhala, Msutu, Jiyana, Gubevu, Tiba, Mandlamakhulu, Sivunguvungu esawisa indoda emhlangeni, inamba kaNdidini ngoba ngimesabile uNokhala owawela ngempalazo eyaphalazwa ngamadoda, Maduna omhle ngekhala lakhe, isilo esinamadevu emlonyeni Ngaculende emabalabala njenge ngwe, inkomo ezingqukuva azibuyi emzini xa bekulotyolwe ngayo, umntu owawa edakeni kwathi nqa abantu.

Love, Peace, Family, Unity, Service, Honesty and Hardwork