Working Lives South Africa

Choir mistress Makgopa Gomba

Makgopa Gomba wears two hats at the school in Pretoria where she works - one as an administration clerk, the other as the school's choir mistress.

Though she has no formal training, music runs in the family she says and, most importantly: "Music is my passion."

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Such work at the height of the unrest during the dying days of the apartheid era would not have been an option however.

As the wife of a black policeman working for the state, she was an outcast in her own community.

Though she and her family were subject to the same discriminatory laws as other blacks, the fact that her husband worked for the hated police meant she too was a target.

"It was terrible to live with black people at that time," she recalls.

On one occasion, she was told that a rubber tyre, soaked in petrol, would be placed around her neck and set alight - a practice known as "necklacing" that had already claimed the lives of other so-called collaborators.

She heeded the warning and she and her family fled their township of Soshanguve.

It was only once Nelson Mandela declared his pride in being the commander of the police force, in one of his early speeches on becoming South Africa's president, that the Gomba family was able to return.

Today they live in a much extended and comfortably furnished township house around a large yard.

Mrs Gomba and her husband live with their youngest two daughters, twins aged 20, who are both studying sound engineering.

She is also raising the two sons of her older two daughters as they pursue careers.

For all the trauma of her past, Mrs Gomba says she is a happy person.

"I'm always happy. It is because God supports me," she says.

"Anyway if you are not happy, you are going to be ugly!" she laughs, adding: "You have to smile all the time!"

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