Raymond Suttner: Meeting Nomboniso Gasa

I notice that very many people are liking and commenting on the beauty of Nomboniso Gasa,

as demonstrated in her profile picture on Facebook. When I was first attracted to Nomboniso, it was almost entirely an attraction to her beauty.
I did see that she was intelligent and articulate but when I first ‘dated’ her it was not with a view to learning from her ways of understanding the world. After all, I was ANC head of political education so I was used to people listening to me and especially on political matters, being the one who would explain various things. I did not envisage that I would learn much from her.
We went to the café at the art gallery, near to what was then Shell House in Joubert Park and then sat on the lawn and I was surprised at how Nomboniso set about explaining her views to me, and it seemed to be at a very leisurely pace. She did not seem anxious to have me ‘okay’ them as a person who was recognised for my ideological understanding. She was fully confident without that.
It took me some time to appreciate that this was not only to be a fully equal relationship but one where we learnt from one another and grew together in a range of ways, as it continues at this time.
It was sometimes difficult to negotiate the relationship for we come from completely different backgrounds but also because we have both experienced police brutality. Unwittingly we could sometimes set one another off with our distinct ways of coping.
But this was a relationship that did not pass unnoticed and was subject to oversight. I was then on the National Executive (the NEC) and during one of the breaks in a meeting Madiba stood next to me at the urinal and he said: ‘I am like a father to you. Why don’t you tell me about this?’ I said ‘You mean about that?’ and he said ‘yes’. I said ‘Do you want to meet her?’ and he said yes. I explained that she worked on the 10th floor and he wanted to go down immediately to meet Nomboniso. After meeting her he called aside the others working there and explained to them: ‘these two are young lovers, you must sometimes leave them space to be alone’.
But there was another type of oversight, from the ‘Mamas’. I was fortunate that the older female comrades were very protective towards me, not Nomboniso. They imputed nothing but pure motives to me. They feared that she was a young child who would mess me around. She was called up to meet with Ma Albertina Sisulu, Ma Gertrude Shope, Ma Adelaide Tambo, Me Ruth Mompati and others. They explained that I ‘was their son’ and they wanted to know whether she ‘was serious or just playing around’?
That is over 20 years ago. We have been through good times and a lot of hard times but we continue to be enriched by sharing our lives, our convictions, living, playing and laughing together.

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