The Herald (South Africa)
Iconic marcher fears being forgotten
YEARNING for historical justice, a Port Elizabeth anti-apartheid activist is fighting to be remembered as one of the women who led the march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956.
Lillian Diedericks, 90, fears her role in the iconic march against pass laws by 20 000 women has been forgotten.
This comes after President Jacob Zuma unveiled statues of struggle icons Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi and Sophia de Bruyn at the Women’s Living Heritage Monument in Pretoria yesterday – the four who led the march.
The unveiling marked the 60th anniversary of the protest march to the seat of government to register their rejection of institutionalised racism.
A feisty Diedericks said she was the fifth woman who marched in the frontline with Moosa, Joseph, Ngoyi and De Bruyn.
Speaking from her Gelvandale home, where she had watched the unveiling on TV, Diedericks said: “It is disturbing because I was there on the frontline.
“I am still alive [but never] received any acknowledgement [this year] for marching with those women.”
Diedericks said she had started shouting at the TV when she realised her name was being expunged from the history books.
“I ranted and shouted at the screen for the false truths they were putting out there ... to send this false history into the world is very wrong,” she said.
Diedericks has a photograph of the march in which she is clearly seen standing next to Moosa, Joseph, Ngoyi and De Bruyn.
The poses of the four other women in the picture resemble the statues unveiled yesterday.
“I received many plaques commemorating the women’s march over the years, [including] from former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.”
But Diedericks said her name had been forgotten in the last few years.
“I don’t want to be in the limelight anymore, I had my time in the limelight 60 years ago,” she said. “It just upsets me now that the young people are being fed wrong information about their history.
“I don’t have many years left and I would like to die knowing that everyone has got the correct history of what happened on that day.”
Recalling the day, Diedericks spoke passionately about the time she had boarded a train with 20 other women to make their way to Pretoria.
She joined the march at the Union Buildings with 20 000 other women.
“I still get goosebumps each time I think about that day.”
The Minister in the Presidency responsible for the women projects secretariat, Madichaba Milosevic, said they had not been aware of Diedericks’s role in the historic march.
“Our minister [Susan Shabangu] will have to look into her story to verify whether it is true.”
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma yesterday urged the private sector to provide loans to women‚ particularly in rural areas‚ as part of promoting the National Development Plan.
He was speaking in Pretoria on the 60th anniversary of the historic march by more than 20 000 women to register their rejection of white supremacy and institutionalised racism.
Zuma said there had been significant change‚ especially at the political level‚ in employment‚ education‚ and ownership of homes and businesses.
The justice system and economic participation – particularly in areas such as legal status‚ attitudes and women’s involvement in decision-making – had also changed.
But in some areas the change appeared to be slow.
To counter this, the participation of women in the economy was critical, hence the call on the private sector, especially banks, to work with the government towards this goal, Zuma said.
The Women’s Living Heritage Monument at Lillian Ngoyi Square was unveiled yesterday.
The area was originally known as Strijdom Square but was renamed 10 years ago in honour of one of the leaders of the march.
Zuma said the monument and renaming of the square were symbols of the bravery and patriotism of women. In other Women’s Day activities: ý DA leader Mmusi Maimane said that corruption must be eliminated so the people’s money could be used to accelerate the empowerment of women; and
ý The EFF said that 60 years after the march, women in South Africa were still restricted and unsafe in communities.