Grace Masuku

Title Botanist and Herbalist
Other Names Meiki
Date of Birth 1932-02-27
Date of Death
Grace Meiki Masuku
Born, Lekutung Village, the Pilanesberg, 27 February 1932. Her father was Abraham Rantogele and her mother Tshinangwe, the daughter of Kgosi Ramono Pilane of the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela in Moruleng at the beginning of the 20th century. Grace attended primary school at Kai in Botswana where she was kept by her uncle, (and later Kgosi) Tidimane Samuel Ramono Pilane who was working in the Bechuanaland colonial service at the time. Subsequently, she was further educated at the famous Kilnerton Institution and the the Bantu Normal School where she trained as a teacher. From 1953 to 1959, she taught at Sefikile Primary School in the Pilanesberg area. Later, she taught Biology and Setswana in Brits and Moruleng (formerly Kgamanyane) High School, rising to the position of Headmistress. Meanwhile, Grace had begun to develop a keen in, and deep enthusiasm for, Tswana cultural and traditional matters. In 1985, the Department of the Department of Education of the then Bophuthatswana government appointed her as Liaison Officer in-charge of the promotion of the cultural affairs of the Batswana communities throughout the homeland. In 1987, she initiated regional cultural festivals and competitions in which various Batswana groups would showcase their unique cultural similarities and differences in order to learn from one another. Deeply attached to, and intimately familiar with, the physical environment, Grace became, and still is, a reservoir of practical knowledge of medicinal plants and indigenous knowledge generally.
It is for these reasons that in the early 1990s, the Zimbabwe parks authorities engaged her as a resource person while she was working for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) regional office. While on that assignment, she, among other tasks, trained personnel and conservation institutions in environmental management. Renowned for her deep knowledge of Tswana traditional and cultural values and practices, Grace initiated the establishment of Mphebato Museum in Saulspoort in 1996. A well-known and respected traditional healer, she owns her own herbal pharmacy in Lesetlheng Village in the Pilanesberg area. Her pharmacy stocks a very large variety of medicines derived from plants, roots, leaves and bark. She also trains unemployed graduates in heritage issues, using the Mphebatho as a base. In 2006, started traditional conservation clubs in schools, beginning with those in the Pilanesberg area, teaching indigenous conservation ideology and methods. Among other bodies, she is a member of the Bakagatla-ba-Kgafela Tribal Council. She has received many prestigious awards in recognition of her enormous efforts at nature conservation and the dissemination of indigenous knowledge systems, including 'The Chancellor of the Baobab Tree' awarded to her by President Thabo Mbeki in 2006. Grace continues to take an active and leading role in the affairs of her community

South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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