Pi­o­neer­ing women paved the way

This trio de­fied a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment to achieve

Sunday World - - Sunday Report -

With Women’s Month draw­ing to an end, Sun­day World takes a look at three iconic fe­male po­lit­i­cal lead­ers of the Strug­gle whose stories still have to be told in our his­tory books.

They are the first fe­male pres­i­dent of a po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tion, Win­nie Kg­ware, and ac­tivists and pi­o­neers Zon­deni Veron­ica Sobukwe and Nokutela Dube, re­ports.

Be­fore her death in 1998, Win­nie Kg­ware had re­treated from ac­tive pol­i­tics, choos­ing in­stead to spend time with her fam­ily in Thaba Nchu, her birth­place in the Free State.

While South Africans were gripped by the NDZ pres­i­den­tial cam­paign wave last year, that sought to challenge our so­ci­ety to choose a fe­male pres­i­dent, many werenot awarethat the Black Peo­ple’s Con­ven­tion (BPC) in De­cem­ber 1972 was ahead of its time by elect­ing Kg­ware as its first pres­i­dent.

In the con­fer­ence held in Ham­man­skraal, the fol­low­ing were also elected: Madibeng Mokodi­toa (vice-pres­i­dent), Sipho Buthelezi (sec­re­tary-gen­eral), Mo­sub­udi Man­gena (na­tional or­gan­iser) and Saths Cooper (public re­la­tions of­fi­cer).

Kg­ware (née Smith), who was born in 1917, gained po­lit­i­cal cred­i­bil­ity as she bravely helped stu­dent or­gan­i­sa­tions at the then Univer­sity of the North (Tur­floop) to or­gan­ise them­selves.

Mar­ried to the univer­sity’s rec­tor, Pro­fes­sor WMKg­ware, she helped stu­dents from the Univer­sity Chris­tian Move­ment hold prayer s ses­sions and meet­ings in her res­i­dence when their prayers were banned. the or­gan­i­sa­tion was formed.

A trained teacher, she is cred­ited with form­ing the SA Stu­dents Or­gan­i­sa­tion in 1968.

In 1977 when se­cu­rity po­lice stopped a bus, in which mourn­ers in­clud­ing Kg­ware, from pro­ceed­ing to Steve Biko’s fu­neral in Gins­berg, East­ern Cape, the then 66 year old got out­ofthe bu­sand­hitch­hikedto the fu­neral.

At the end of her ten­ure as BPC pres­i­dent, with many po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions banned un­der the to­tal on­slaught, she left­for­mal pol­i­tic­swhen shere­tired to her home­town.

Kg­ware was awarded the Steve Biko Award for her role in theStrug­gle aswell asan Or­der of Luthuli in 2003.

Mosi­budi Man­gena, Kg­ware’s for­mer BPC com­rade, said: “Dur­ing my trial in Gra­ham­stown in 1973 she was the

■only de­fence wit­ness, and told the court that I did not re­cruit mem­bers[for the­un­der­ground Strug­gle] as the state al­leged.

“The state ig­nored her tes­ti­mony any­way and sen­tenced me to five years in prison. They in­sin­u­ated that she was too old and I may have car­ried out these ac­tiv­i­ties un­der her nose but she em­phat­i­cally re­jected these in­sin­u­a­tions.”

Man­gena said Kg­ware was known for her role in sup­port­ing many cadres who ei­ther wanted to study or leave the coun­try and sup­ported lead­ers in­clud­ing Steve Biko, Bar­ney Pityanaand Mokolitwa among others.

He said lead­ers like him who worked with Kg­ware needed to do more to raise aware­ness about her legacy and to pop­u­larise her name by cel­e­brat­ing the huge role she played. The widow of Strug­gle icon and PAC founder Robert Sobukwe who died last week Wed­nes­day was buried in Graaff-Reinet yes­ter­day.

Her death high­lighted the ex­treme ne­glect she suf­fered un­der the cur­rent gov­ern­ment and the pain, suf­fer­ing and sac­ri­fice her whole fam­ily en­dured dur­ing apartheid.

TheMotherof Aza­ni­a­hadto raise four small chil­dren and keep alive the legacy of her hus­band, who apartheid viewed as the most dan­ger­ous ac­tivist and jailed sep­a­ratelyat Robben Is­land.

The fierce ac­tivist never served in any for­mal struc­tures but she’s cred­ited as one of the back­bones of the PAC for the role she played in help­ing Apla cadres.

Sobukwe (née Mathe) was born on July 27 1927 in Hlobane near Vry­heid in KwaZulu-Natal. She was a trained nurse. She met her hus­band dur­ing a nurs­ing trainees’strike at Lovedale Col­lege in Alice, East­ern Cape.

In April, the Orderof Luthuli was con­ferred on her. But this came af­ter a shame­ful episode about her strug­gling to ac­cess her old age grant as she did not have anID book.

Ken­neth Mok­goa­tle, PAC spokesperon, de­scribed MaSobukwe as a hum­ble leader who never sought the spot­light.

“She al­ways wanted her pri­vate space to be re­spected and did not con­duct a lot of me­dia in­ter­views un­less it was ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.”

Mok­goatlhe said then so­cial de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini­cameto Sobukwe’s res­cue on hear­ing of her strug­gle to ac­quire a wheel­chair.

The Robert Sobukwe Trust says more will be­known­about her through a book the trust is in the process of writ­ing.

■While many know the found­ing pres­i­dent of the ANC, John Lan­gal­ibalele Dube, very few know of the ma­jes­tic ex­ploits and feats of his wife, Nokutela.

The cou­ple, who had been taught by mis­sion­ar­ies, were both teach­ers, es­say­ists and keen mu­sic writers. They trav­elled to the US in the 1800s where Lan­gal­ibalele­was be­ing trained as amis­sion­ary. This is where Nokutela took on var­i­ous cour­ses in­clud­ing cook­ing, mu­sic and min­istry.

Upon their­re­turn, the­cou­ple estab­lished Oh­lange High School, the first black aca­demics to run a school.

Nokutela (born Mdima) helped Dube start the news­pa­per Ilan­galaseNatali and­sheis cred­ited with pop­u­lar­is­ing our na­tional an­themthat was sung dur­ing as­sem­bly at Oh­lange be­fore many schools and other es­tab­lish­ments also adopted it.

Shed died in 1917, aged just 44, of a kid­ney re­lated dis­ease.

Rand Daily Mail/Tiso Black Star

Win­nie Mot­lalepula Kg­ware, the first pres­i­dent of the Black Peo­ple’s Con­ven­tion, hitch­hiked to Steve Biko’s burial af­ter cops had blocked their hired bus.

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