Few people have heard of a place called Lenyenye. Lenyenye is a township in the Naphuno district in the north eastern Transvaal.
For many years people called the Naphuno district the ‘Valley of Death’. They called Naphuno the ‘Valley of Death’ because people died there. They died from hunger. They died from sickness. They died because nobody cared .
In 1977 a brave and beautiful woman went to live in Lenyenye. Her name is Dr Mamphela Ramphela.
Before 1977 Mamphela had also never heard of Lenyenye. She worked in a clinic in King William’s Town. She was happy there. She had lots of friends. And she was helping people.
Then the government banned her. And they sent her to Lenyenye -nearly a thousand miles away from King William’s Town. Mamphela did not know anybody in Lenyenye. But she saw how the people were suffering. She wanted to help them. She is a woman who cares.
Mamphela worked very hard. She still works very hard. She works with the people. Together they are working for a better life.
Life is better for the people already. They have built a clinic together. The clinic is called ‘lthuseng’. This means ‘help yourselves’.
Mamphela is the doctor in the clinic. The clinic helps about 100 people everyday. But the clinic does not only help sick people. The clinic trains people. These people are called health workers. The health workers work with the people in the villages of Naphuno. Together they learn how to stay healthy.
The people are also working together in other ways. Some women work in sewing and knitting groups. Some people make bricks together.
Other people grow vegetables. And over 300 people are learning how to read and write together. The Learn and Teach organisation helps these learners.
The people are now building a nursery school together.
“We have lots to do,” an old man told Learn and Teach. “We must work hard. Now we are on the right road. The young doctor has done much for us.”
The doctor is still very young. She was born only 35 years ago. She was born in Bochum in the northern Transvaal. She was the third eldest child in the family.
Her parents had seven children altogether. But her parents were also people who cared. They looked after many children from poor families. They bought them food . And they bought them clothes.
Mamphela was a very clever child. She did not work hard at school. She never did homework. And she never studied. But she always did well.
Mamphela was a brave child. She liked playing with boys. She climbed trees. She played hide and seek. She was not scared of anything.
After she finished school, she wanted to go to University.
But her parents had no money for fees. Mamphela only had enough money for a train ticket and a few clothes.
Mamphela was not scared. She did not care about the fees.
She caught a train to Turfloop University. She did well at University. She got a bursary before they asked her for fees.
Mamphela left Turfloop a year later. She wanted to study medicine. She caught a train to the University of Natal. Again she had no money for fees. Again she got a bursary.
Now Mamphela started thinking about politics. She met other people who also thought about politics. Steve Biko was her good friend. Mamphela and her friends wanted to make South Africa a better place.
Mamphela did not fail a year at University. After University she worked at the Zanempilo Clinic in King William’s Town -until she was banned and sent to Lenyenye.
People still remember the day Dr Mamphela Ramphela came to Lenyenye. They will not forget the day life came to the ‘Valley of Death’.