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Pietermaritzburg’s ‘Mrs Mop’ dies at 76

By Chanel George

A pillar holding up cleanliness in Pietermaritzburg has fallen.

Pietermaritzburg's clean-up crusader, Anna-Maria Dumazile Cele, who was known as 'Mrs Mop'. Photo: Supplied
Pietermaritzburg's clean-up crusader, Anna-Maria Dumazile Cele, who was known as 'Mrs Mop'. Photo: Supplied

Pietermaritzburg’s clean-up crusader, Anna-Maria Dumazile Cele, affectionately known as “Mrs Mop”, has died at the age of 76.

Cele became known as Mrs Mop through her clean-up campaigns in various parts of the city, brandishing her mop as her trademark cleaning implement.

Her efforts saw her frequently appearing in the local media.

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Amanda Mchunu, a grandchild of Cele, said her grandmother was born at eHlokozi, near Highflats. She then moved to Balhambra Way in Northdale and then to Railway Street in the CBD where she died. She was buried on Sunday.

“In the early 2000s, she began her journey of cleaning the northern areas because there used to be litter and dumps everywhere, especially in vacant areas,” said Mchunu.

She added that her grandmother believed that areas should be cleaned so that children could play in them. She also planted flowers with the help of municipal officials. She had a very strong passion for a clean hygienic environment.

At that time, the northern areas around Olympia and Balhambra ways were sparkling clean.

She said that when her grandmother moved to the CBD, she started a liquor business.

She realised that the new place in the CBD was unkempt and very filthy and she then started cleaning up all over town. She said she was mopping the town, hence the name ‘Mrs Mop’.

Mchunu said Cele volunteered for years under the Keep Pietermaritzburg Clean Campaign.

“She achieved all of this with the help of her eight children and 18 grandchildren,” said Mchunu.

Streetchildren had also joined her and they started cleaning the lower parts of town.

“She was a brave and determined woman,” said Mchunu, adding that Cele worked very closely with councillors and officials who assisted her with cleaning resources.

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Mervyn Dirks, ANC MPL said “Mam Cele” or “Mrs Mop” was the firebrand and driver behind the cleaning Pietermaritzburg campaign in the 2000s.

“She had a great sense of civic duty. She was the true embodiment of volunteerism, cleaning the city on a daily basis, without any financial reward or gain,” said Dirks.

He said she hated filth and strove to beautify the city of Pietermaritzburg.

These are the unsung heroes. Today our city could have been a shining example of the city of roses if only this generation could take a leaf out of Mam Cele’s book.

He said she was against littering which is prevalent in the city.

Lara Edmonds, chairperson of Keep Pietermaritzburg Clean Association (KPCA), said there was something wonderful and powerful about Mrs Mop, with her broom and mop in hand.