Deserved stamp of approval
THE South African Post Office has issued a postage stamp to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Helen Suzman on November 7, 1917. This was a momentous day in world history as it was the date of the Russian Revolution.
Although Suzman was no communist or socialist, she always took great glee in relating that she was born on this great, portentous date. She died on January 1, 2009, at the ripe old age of 91.
Suzman was a most remarkable woman and it is fitting that we as South Africans celebrate her outstanding contribution to human rights and democracy, which we as a nation are the recipients of today.
She was indeed a person of inordinate political and moral courage. She was also a liberal democrat with an acute sense of social justice and a tireless political fighter for the rights of South Africa’s marginalised and dispossessed.
In her assertive and tenacious style she epitomised a parliamentary struggle for human dignity and rights for all. Suzman was more than a tough political fighter, as she employed an impeccably informed and researched strategy of incisive debate that invariably went to the heart of the issues she addressed.
All of this required dedication and very hard work. She was intellectually formidable and politically indefatigable. Her efforts as a human rights exponent and parliamentarian have been recognised all over the world.
As a parliamentarian, fighting alone a heroic battle against an evil system in the House of Assembly for 13 years, her contribution was unparalleled.
The Times newspaper observed of the role she played in the dark and long years of apartheid rule that, “in all the annals of parliamentarism in the English-speaking world, Helen Suzman may have been the best there has ever been”. In similar vein, The Observer commented: “Combative and courageous, Helen Suzman’s political life is on a heroic scale.”
Although involved in the rough and tumble of party politics in South Africa, she always acted according to profound liberal convictions. She was a caring and compassionate person.
Suzman was, in my view, the greatest parliamentarian this country has ever produced, and in this regard ranks with the best in the world. It is therefore fitting that we commemorate the centenary of her birth with a postage stamp. The Post Office should be commended for this.
FIGHTER: Helen Suzman, MP and fighter for social justice, has had a stamp issued in her honour by the Post Office.