Ngoyi’s friend an unsung liberation struggle heroine

ETHEL SELLOANE LEISA BORN: February 27 1914 DIED: July 6 2016 BURIED: July 13 2016 BURIAL: Heroes Acre Soweto

- Mbulelo Sompetha Xolo

THE community of Mzimhlophe in Soweto is mourning the loss of one of its gallant fighters against apartheid who ran a safe house for comrades on the run. Mme Ethel Selloane Leisa was a neighbour to another ANC Women’s League leader, Lillian Ngoyi, who played a major role in the struggle. During the Rivonia Treason Trial, Ngoyi was on the run from police while Leisa was a nurse at Shanty Clinic in Orlando West. She helped to hide Ngoyi at the clinic. Leisa was born at Ga-Marishane in Limpopo on February 27 1914. In the 1950s she married Nicodemus Leisa, who was later deported by the apartheid government because he was a Lesotho citizen. They had three children – Louis, Pauline and Mpho. She joined the ANC around 1944. Her original green and black Women’s League blouse was hand-sewn by Ngoyi. Leisa lived through the formative years of the ANC Youth League, then led by Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Anton Lembede. Her son Louis was arrested in the 1950s for fighting with a white man. Lawyers Mandela and Tambo represente­d him in court and won. In the 1950s and early 1960s, she raised money for the families of the treason trialists and arranged schooling, clothing and emotional support for their children. Her daughter Mpho Mgule said her mother was an unsung hero of the liberation struggle. “It is for this reason that she was awarded the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation award as an unsung hero,” she said. Leisa leaves behind a daughter, eight grandchild­ren and 10 great-grandchild­ren. –

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