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Urbania Bebe Mothopeng (1917 - )

The Order of the Baobab in

Urbania Bebe Mothopeng (1917 - ) Awarded for:
Distinguished contribution to the rehabilitation of girl child offenders; assisting girl learners, and the upliftment of women.

Profile of Urbania Bebe Mothopeng

Urbania Bebe Mothopeng was born in Malay Camp in Johannesburg in 1917. Her family relocated Western Native Township opposite Sophiatown in the 1920s because the apartheid goverment had declared Malay Camp an Indian area.

Mothopeng started her primary education at the St Cyprian's Missionary School in Sophiatown. She completed a two-year teacher training course at St Chads College in Natal in 1939. Her first teaching post was at her alma mater in Sophiatown, and she went on to teach at various schools for 31 years.

Her reaching highlight was when she was head of the Bethany Girls' Reformatory School in Orland West in the 1950s. Here, she was instrumental in instilling a sense of self-worth and discipline among the delinquent girls.

The Bethany Girls' Choir under Mothopeng was allowed for the first time to venture outside the reformatory premises and participate in music events run by the Johannesburg Bantu Music Festival and Transvaal United African Teachers Association. Mothopeng later became Chairperson of the Children's Section of the Johannesburg Bantu Music Festival - a position that saw her traveling around training women conductors and children's choirs. She studied Music theory and passed grade 7 at the Royal School of Music in London.

When her struggle-stalwart husband and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) President from 1998 1990, Zephanida Mothopeng, was arrested in 1960, the struggle for survival for Mothopeng and her relatives, as the wife and family of a political prisoner, intensified.

In 1962, Mothopeng briefly took up a part-time job with Baragwanath and Coronation hospitals, training nurses in cookery or caring for invalid patients. She later became a family planning adviser at Baragwanath-Chris Hani Hospital.

In 1973, she co-founded the Urban Resources Centre with women in Soweto and Kagiso, where women received skills training in handcraft. They were encouraged to attend night school to improve their education.

In 1975, Mothopeng was arrested for political activism and taken to Pietermaritzburg. In 1990, she was elected first President of the African Women's Organization of the PAC during which time she represented South African Women in Libya, New York, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.