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.

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