Nomkhitha Virginia Mashinini was born on the 9th of May, 1935, in the rural Bengu village of Lady Frere in the former Transkei. After the death of his first wife, her father, Daniel married his second wife, Notuthuzelo to whom Nomkhitha was the first child. He was a wealthy man who owned livestock.

When she was 13, she was sent to a boarding school in Mt. Authur. She remained there until she passed her Junior Certificate. She naturally moved to Kliptown near Soweto with the intention of enrolling at a Nurses College at (Chris Hani) Baragwanath Hospital. In later months, she discovered that her aunt whose address was used for correspondence was destroying her post before it reached her.

She met Ramothibi Joseph and they were married in 1955. In that marriage were thirteen children. In 1958 they got a municipal stance in Central Western Jabavu to erect a shack.

In 1976, her son Tsietsi led the student uprising in Soweto. The riots were about the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools. As a result of the riots, four of her sons went into political exile, one of which came back and was tried by the courts for having the intentions of doing military to sabotage the government.

The youngest of the four sons was fifteen when he skipped the country. Out of panic, Virginia travelled to Swaziland to ensure the safety of the young one in particular, and to try to make arrangement for him to continue with his education whilst in exile. On her return from the Swaziland trip, she was detained in Standerton; about two and a half hour drive from Soweto. She was held in solitary confinement for the duration of her detention. In detention she was continuously interrogated about the whereabouts of her sons and what political activity they were involved in. A blame for the chaos that erupted was put on her, and accused of being an irresponsible mother without control over her children.

When she was finally released from prison without being charged, she had lost her job with Guys & Dolls. The management was feared that she was going to bring a bad terrorist and communist influence to staff. She never found employment again, except for a charitable organization, Meals on Wheels. The project was a feeding scheme for the poor run by the Methodist Church.

Mashinini is a born Methodist who has served the Women’s Manyano Committees.

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