Sekhukhune’s Seema admits ‘difficult’ experience against minnows
A photo of the family with Clementine Mosimane and the film’s director Christiaan Olwagen at the private screening held for them on Thursday, 30 January.
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Published more than 40 years ago, Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena, written by Elsa Joubert, now 96, is a true story of how the pass laws and the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act of 1970 affected black families in the late 1970s and early 80s.
Joubert was inspired to write the book after witnessing the turmoil experienced by her own helper, whose real name was Ntombizodumo Eunice Msutwana-Ntsata. The fact of her real identity was concealed until Ntsata’s death in 1992 and was done so to allegedly protect her.
She was an Afrikaans-speaking Xhosa woman who was born in Upington and lived in Cape Town where she worked for Joubert.
The laws and her husband’s inability to work due to a serious illness resulted in her children being forcibly relocated to the Transkei, which was declared independent from South Africa along with a number of other homelands under the aforementioned act.
It was previously reported that Ntsata received royalties from the book’s publishers until 1992 after an agreement was reached with the publishing house that she and Elsa would split their portion of the profits 50-50.
A woman by the name of Mamthi Msutwana, however, stated the contrary in a recent Facebook rant. She identified herself as Ntsata’s niece.
“I’m really disturbed right now funny how some things don’t change. We get reminded of the past no matter what. POPPIE NONGENA is the story of my late aunt her real name Ntombizodumo Eunice Msutwana-Ntsata. The story was written by her employer during the Apartheid era it was originally in Afrikaans. The book has now been translated in so many languages. What’s surprising is that now a movie will be released soon yet not even one of her kids knows about it. How fair is this we were just surprised but we’re not gonna be quiet,” she exclaimed.
The following day, she posted an image of Ntsata’s ID book and wrote “this is the woman behind the name Poppie Nongena she died poor in 1992. Now there’s ppl who say we suddenly care about our aunt cause we smell money. How dare my cousin’s have every ryt to be consulted about the movie. Did they do that no the book was originally written in Afrikaans ‘Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena.’” [sic all]
Msutwana’s rant continued the next day after having watched a Carte Blanche episode on YouTube about the film and its production process.
“Just watched the interview it would have been much better if my aunt’s children were also part of it. This just revoked [sic] so many feelings I was crying while watching the snipets [sic] of the movie. It reminded me of old times, family members who are no more who are also part of the story. I have a fighting spirit and no matter how tough life gets I push on I don’t back down. I see the Poppie spirit in me I have fond n painful memories of my aunt,” she stated.
She went on to share the memories she recalled of Ntsata during the brief time the family got to spend with her as she lived with her employer five days out of the week and only got to spend two days with her own family. She also touched on how the family was affected by Ntsata’s battle with leukaemia.
“She was a hard worker, beautiful, loving, resilient, oh let me not forget stubborn. She sacrificed a lot for her family [and] kids.”
The Citizen reached out to Msutwana for further comment but could not reach her at the time of going to print.
One of the film’s producers, Helena Spring, did, however, speak to The Citizen and said that they had been in contact with the family since Msutwana’s social media rant began. Spring spoke about the family members that she had met with the utmost admiration.
“We became aware of it on Monday, got the contact details by Tuesday and had a screening by Thursday,” explained Spring.
When asked about why the family was not consulted prior to the film being made, Spring said, ”We would have loved to engage with them but we had no idea who they were or where they were.
“We were so pleased to hear from the Ntsata family, after we had learnt that the publishers had lost contact with the family after Eunice (Poppie)’s death in 1993.”
As a result, the proceeds from the film that would have been paid to Ntsata and her family were reportedly donated towards the building of a school in her hometown in Upington.
“I was thrilled to meet them, they are a wonderful family. It was a privilege to show them the film and everyone was very emotional after the screening. It deals with difficult subject matter, so I understand their pain.”
A different family member by the name of Hlubikazi KaBhungane took to the Facebook wall of the film to thank the directors for the screening opportunity.
“I wish you nothing but the best and I hope we all understand this was too personal to let go. At times I might have been impatient, however, please accept my apologies if I offended anyone mine was to make sure you know who my aunt is. Ntombizodumo Eunice Msutwana-Ntsata a lady I loved till death. You portrayed well an assertive woman, resilient traits I love n admire. Once again thank you for doing what you promised to do Producer and Director thank you,” he wrote.
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