Women in the liberation struggle of Azania (South Africa)

Nomvo Booi, Mojanku Gumbi, Maud Jackson, Shumakazi Jako, Oshadi Mangena, Maphiri Masekela, Phindile Mavuso, Stella Moabi, Zoey Mokgadi, Joyce Mokhesi, Mmagauta Molefe, Asha Moodley, Urbania Mothopeng, Arun Naicker, Phyllis Ntantala, Navi Pillay, Julia Ramashamole, Theresa Ramashamole, Buni Sexwale, Elisabeth Sibeko, Gladys Tsolo, Christine Qunta

‘The South African sets of laws is a cursed bible of oppression full of pages with barbaric and most degrading laws ever written,’ spoke Elisabeth Sibeko (PAC1) in 1975 at the UN World Conference in Mexico City during the International Women’s Year2. Apartheid implied for black women too that a pseudo-culture was imposed upon them consisting of a mix of elements from the African tradition and white prejudice3.

Racism, sexism and exploitation dominated the lives of black women. They remained minors their entire life. Oshadi Mangena (BCM4): ‘..African women who were in their traditional systems producers and owners in their own right were in capitalism turned into perpetual minors through the law.  As minors they lost the right to own the basic resources for making a living. They became dependents of their male folk. In this way women were relative to men more dehumanized and their labour was more devalued. This created a condition for super-exploitation of women as women in the production system.’5

Suffering multiple oppression black women joined the liberation struggle. Their names and contributions to that struggle are underexposed. The Azania Komitee came into contact and worked with a number of these inspiring women in the period from 1974 to 1996. Their experiences, convictions and struggle are the focus in this article.

General strike1991 with NACTU, COSATU, PAC, ANC, AZAPO. J’burg P: Azania Komitee

Position black women

Black women mainly worked in agriculture, the services sector and industry. In factories they had the lowest-paid jobs, paid less than their black male colleagues. Women worked in the food, clothing and leather industry. The more highly skilled women had a greater chance of getting a job in education or healthcare. Their specific interests and needs such as maternity leave were not taken into consideration. Sexual harassment, sexual abuse and getting a job in exchange for sex were commonplace.

Female farm workers (often seasonal work) and domestic staff were not protected by the law. Minimum pay, fixed working hours or holidays were not regulated. Some farmers paid their female workers in kind. ‘It happens that a woman works the entire day for a bucket of tomatoes. At the end of the day she has to work again to earn some money by selling the tomatoes.’6

The freedom of movement of women was strictly regulated by Apartheid legislation. In 1952 it was the intention to introduce the pass laws for women too in order to curtail migration to the cities. In the cities they were looking for work to support themselves.

Because of the struggle of women it took seven years before the pass laws required women to carry a pass. The resistance of the black population against the pass laws continued. In 1960 the South African regime responded to peaceful protests with a massacre in Sharpeville and other places7.

Without authorization women were denied the right to work and live in the city. They were risking heavy fines and imprisonment when violating the pass laws. Pushed by poverty they were willing to take the risk. Employers took advantage of the situation by paying even lower wages and by being willfully blind to the often miserable working conditions.


‘It is the tragic story of thousands of young women’

In the ‘homelands or Bantustans’8 the female factory workers were even worse off. The laws that provided protection, however minimal, for workers did not apply in the homelands. Trade unions were forbidden. During Apartheid women in the Bantustans were considered ‘useless appendices’, as a Minister of Bantu Administration and Development had put it. Elisabeth Sibeko (PAC) came from such a region and underlined9 what researcher Landis describes: that in order to survive women spend almost the entire day collecting firewood and carrying water from the nearest river. Often they are widows. As a woman they were not entitled to land. Sometimes they managed to rent a patch of land. The yields of the mainly barren soil were poor. All this resulted in poverty with inevitable illnesses and mortalities by starvation. People suffered from kwashiorkor (insufficient protein consumption), pellagra (vitamin deficiency) and beriberi (vitamin B1 deficiency).

Phyllis Ntantala 1920-2016 P: Unisa

Phyllis Ntantala wrote in 1957 about life in the rural areas allocated to the Africans : ‘It is the tragic story of thousands of young women who are widowed long before they have reached the age of 30; of young, married women who have never become mothers; of young women whose lives have been a long lamentation of anxiety – burying one baby after the other, and eventually their husband – that beloved partner she has never known as man and father. To them – both men and women – adulthood means the end of life; it represents loneliness, worries, tears and death; it implies life without a future because there is no present.’10

White women

White women benefitted from the poverty of black women and used the propagated pseudo-culture as a fig leaf for their exploitation. The Apartheid system forced black women (and men) to leave their children behind in the so-called homelands and work in the urban areas. After all, in the barren ‘homelands’ you could not earn a living. They could be hired by white women as cheap maids and nannies. White women turned a blind eye to the fact how traumatic it was to leave your children behind for a longer period of time. They preferred to believe it was ‘tradition’ and so ‘normal’ that black children grew up in poverty without their parents and that black mothers did not really care11.

In Apartheid South Africa white women were included in the economic and political power related to a white male dominated culture of superiority. That position impacted their perspective and struggle and dominated public debate12 .

White women calling themselves progressive assumed that black women and white women were sisters in a joint fight. White feminists refused to see and acknowledge they were assisting in the systematic oppression of black women.

That the interests of black and white women are mutually exclusive is illustrated in the following13. In the early 80s white feminists were protesting against the ban on nightwork by women. Black women did not support that demand. Nightwork would make their lives even harder. Arranging childcare at night was difficult, going to work without your own car was dangerous and they had a higher risk of sexual harassment. It also meant they actually had to work for 24 hours for once home life goes on without any help. All this did not have an impact on white women. They had domestic help, nannies for the children and private transport.

White legislation, religion, traditions

Black women trapped in multiple legal systems, traditions and religions

In 1993 UMTAPO organized a nationwide seminar on the position of black women in South Africa. It was the first time this was organized independently of white women. In her contribution Sexual Politics and Legal Rights Navi Pillay discusses the implications of white legislation on the lives of women.

One of the first laws to be adopted in South Africa (in 1686 by Baron Von Imhoff) was banning sex between different ‘races’ under penalty of death for the black man who had a sexual relation with a white woman. For white men the reverse did not apply. The myth of the promiscuous black woman came in very useful for the white man. Navi Pillay: ‘By perpetuating the myth that black women were incapable of fidelity, white men hoped to so devalue them that it freed them from moral scruple in their relationship with black women.’ The law was the forerunner of the later Immorality Act and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act. In 1985 these Acts were repealed.

Navi Pillay at Umtapo Conf. 1996 Towards-the-21st Century-Rebuilding-a-Nation

In South Africa the man had as head of the family full legal powers. Under African common law the woman is under permanent guardianship of her father, husband and after his death under guardianship of a brother or adult son. The South Africans of Indian descent had to deal with the Indian social system with similar patriarchal relations within the family. South African legislation intensified these different beliefs, religion and the male dominated family. Domestic violence and abuse were considered private matters.

Since 1988 women could marry in community of property. The vast majority of women in earlier marriages still remained subject to the man who had conjugal power.

So black women found themselves in a complicated position since they were trapped in various legal systems, traditions and religions. Navi Pillay: ‘Religion dictates that women must obey men and suffer in silence.’ She gives some examples from the different religions in South Africa.

From Hinduism: ‘Tulsidas in his Ramayana expressed his contempt for women when he wrote that if women became independent  it would lead to evil. Therefore he prescribed that the Drum, the village fool, the Shudras, animals, women: all these are fit to be beaten.’

The Islam, the Qur’an: ‘Men have authority over women because Allah has made one superior to the other. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah had guarded them. As for those whom you fear disobedient admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.’

Judaism: ‘Jewish tradition has considered women intellectually and spiritually inferior to men. Mishnah – a basic part of the Talmud – states that learning the Thora is a ‘paradox’ for women as ‘they will turn the words of the Thora into foolish words due to lack of understanding and interest. Talmud: A woman is a pitcher full of filth with its mouth full of blood yet all run after her.’

Christianity: ‘Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of Church…Therefore as the Church is subject up to Christ so let wives be to their husbands in everything. In New Testament passages, Paul uses the analogy of the church’s subjection to Christ in commanding wives to be subject to their husbands in everything.’

On the system of migrant workers Navi Pillay argued:‘The system of migrant labour laws was the single greatest contributer to the break-up of African family life that cohabitation between the worker and his family in urban areas was unlawful. The reality for the majority of women in South Africa today is that they are single parents and de facto heads of families, struggling for survival.’

Navanethem (Navi) Pillay started in 1967 as the first black woman a law firm in Durban. She was committed to political activists and denounced torture and unacceptable prison conditions. In 1995 she was appointed as the first black judge at the South African Court. Later she was a judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. From 2008 to 2014 she was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In that capacity she signed the document BORN FREE AND EQUAL, on sexual orientation and gender identity in international human rights. As a member of the Women’s National Coalition she contributed to the new South African Constitution and helped to ensure that the new South African Constitution stated that discrimination based on race, religion and sexual orientation was forbidden.

A personal history

‘My story is an exemplary and painful story of cultural and political oppression’

With her personal story Shumakazi Jako (PAC) illustrates how the Apartheid regime ruined her life and how she survived.

‘Every South African woman in exile reveals the great tragedy of being separated from family, husband and children. The circumstances leading to the suffering of these women are not talked about. Suffering has become second nature/culture. Of course, in this respect black women do not differ much from many women from the working classes throughout the world, as they are socialized to accept pain and suffering as normal,’ says Shumakazi Jako at the International Conference on Women and Apartheid, May 1982 in Brussels14. ‘The presence of an oppressive, brutal, colonialist, imperialist, racist regime has added to even more intensifying the oppression of women and has undermined every attempt at making their own choices.

Shumakazi Jako argued that also in earlier times women were subordinate to men. In marriage the woman was regarded as the property of her husband. The family determined who to marry. In Apartheid South Africa women spent many years without their husbands. In the absence of the husband his family took over parental authority. His wife could not take any decision concerning herself or the children. Shumakazi Jako: ‘My story is an exemplary and painful story of cultural and political oppression.’


That I was to marry my 28-year-old husband as an 18-year-old girl had been decided by the two families when I was still at school. Marriage negotiations took place while my husband was absent for his work in Cape Town. Though I knew him, there was no relationship between us and no dating as was common in western society. My fiancé returned home for our marriage that took place in December 1956. I knew very little of my husband. According to tradition he never talked about his political ties and involvement in Cape Town. We spent some time together in Elliotdale. When he returned for his work in February 1957 I was just two months pregnant. I stayed behind in the countryside of Elliotdale and took care of my in-laws.’

Her first child was born in October 1957 and only the following year her husband saw his daughter. He came for the funeral of his mother who had died of cancer. Shumakazi Jako had nursed her mother-in-law for a long time. ‘My husband stayed with us for some time, but during this period a tragedy struck us once more. My father-in-law died of old age in December. My husband stayed for some more months and then returned to Cape Town.’ In the meantime her daughter suffered from a long-term illness and she had a miscarriage.

‘In March 1961 I took my sick child with me to Cape Town where my husband was working. I found out he lived in a boarding house for men where no women were admitted. By law black women are not expected to live in urban areas. Men are only admitted as workers. Each time they are unemployed their permit to be in town is withdrawn. My husband had to ask for permission for me to be with him. We were allowed a stay of two weeks which later on became six months because of my daughter’s illness. My husband managed to find a room where we could stay. During this time I suspected my husband might be involved in something, although he himself did not say a thing. I noticed he became restless and alert every time he saw a policeman. In the meantime my daughter had an operation in the Groote Schuur Hospital. By now pregnant again I was expelled from Cape Town and together with my daughter I had to return to the countryside of Elliotdale.’

Special Branch

‘In December 1962 the Special Branch15 interrogated me and my sister-in-law. I had just given birth to my second child, a son. They wanted to know where my husband was and I told them in accordance with our traditions I had no idea what my husband was doing or where he had been during that time. All I knew was he worked in Cape Town. Some days later my husband returned home unexpectedly after midnight. I told him the Special Branch had come to us and were looking for him. They had informed me that should they ever find him that would mean the end for him. When I tried to find out from my husband what was going on he only calmed me down without any explanation. As if he was about to die he said: Shumikazi, I know you are still young, but should something happen to me you must remarry. For days he hid in the orchard till he suddenly vanished. I had no idea where he had gone to. There was no communication whatsoever. Mysteriously I received registered letters with money, from East London and occasionally from Lesotho. I did not know the name of the sender. During this time the Special Branch repeatedly barged into my house, interrogated me, searched the house and read my mail. They wanted to know where my husband was, sometimes they tried to scare me and said he was dead, I would never see him again and that I certainly was no longer his wife.’


‘My two children were now in school. Poverty forced me to find work because even the mysterious letters with money were no longer delivered. I took a job in the laundry from the local hospital and I earned 4 Rand a month (1,13 Euro). The working conditions were poor and with a niece I organized a strike for higher wages.

That was very difficult, the women were afraid of losing their jobs despite the fact they got paid very little. Some women threatened me and said they did not want to lose their jobs. When the supervisor summoned us to explain our complaints some women started to say they had no complaints. We got a wage increase of 1 Rand. It was not long before I was transferred and made responsible for running the kitchen, but my greater responsibilities were not additionally rewarded.’  

Imprisonment, torture

‘I shared a room with a colleague in the house for the laundry staff. One night in 1967 we heard loud banging on the door and there were three white men. They got in by force and demanded to know who was Shumakazi. In shock I identified myself. They were prodding me and ordered me to get dressed so I could come along. My friend wanted to know where they were taking me. One of the intelligence officers, called Mr. Card and who spoke Xhosa fluently, told my friend to shut up. The officers refused to leave the room while I was dressing and kept yelling at me: ‘Get moving, get dressed, you kaffir girl. We want you.’ They pushed me roughly into a police car. On the road to East London they choked me so I could barely breathe. They punched me, strangled me and covered my mouth with their hands so nobody could hear me cry. In East London I was taken to Cambridge Prison and locked in a small cel with ten other women. There was no arrest warrant and no charges were pressed. The toilet was a hole in the floor covered with a blanket. I could not sleep that night, only thinking of my children and mother. And of the other homeless children I had given a home. I had become the breadwinner.

The family’s fate was in my hands. At 6 in the morning we got mealie pap and a cup of cold water. Mr. Card interrogated me about the letters I received. Where did they come from and who wrote them. The letters were written under a pseudonym. Mr. Card jumped at me and started to punch me. I fell down. I told him my husband was Nkululeko Jako and that I had no clue where the letters came from. He hit me while I was lying down. I was crying: ‘Why do I have to die for my husband’s actions?’ I was tortured and felt helpless. Suddenly I saw blood running down my legs. I was shocked. It was very humiliating to find myself in this situation in the presence of a stranger. I do not even allow my husband to witness this evidently personal side of my womanhood. Mr. Card had me taken to a smaller cell resembling a toilet, without a window in order to isolate me. The blankets were dirty and louse-infested. I could not bring myself to use the blankets and I just sat in the corner on the opposite side of the hole which was the toilet. I used my coat as a blanket.  

The next day a black policeman came to fetch me for further questioning and torture. Days later: Mr. Card asked me how much the bus fare was to Elliotdale. I said it would be better to take me back to my workplace. Card dropped me off at the gate and drove away. In the meantime my niece had phoned my work and there she had been told some men had taken me with them and I had disappeared. My niece informed my mother. My friends and family called, unsuccessfully, all hospitals and police stations to find me.’

On her return: ‘My mother hardly recognized me for I was covered in bruises. I had been kicked, beaten en tortured. For months I could not hear well. My hearing had been damaged. My mother wanted to take legal action for my sake, but I was afraid she would have to go through the same as I had. She was advanced in years but in South Africa age does not count when it concerns Africans.

Shumakazi Jako could find a job in Johannesburg, thanks to a niece. ‘I could not live on my salary of 5 Rand a month. The children were growing up and I had to find the money for school fees and outfits. In order to get a work permit I changed my name into my maiden name. Women from the countryside were often forced to work as a maid/housekeeper for white women who exploited them. Although they knew women from the so-called homelands were not admitted into the city I still got a job as a nanny and maid. I started at six o’clock in the morning and stopped at five in the afternoon after I had prepared dinner as well. Then I moved on to my other job as an ironer and babysitter while my white employer went to the movies. For my full-time job I got paid 7 Rand a month. And I could earn an extra 3 Rand as a babysitter. Once a year I visited my mother and the children. Generally my mother told me the police frequently pulled my children out of class and questioned them about my husband. The children were still very young, four years old and 9 months, when my husband left.’


‘In 1976 I received a letter from the International Red Cross saying my husband had to have major surgery. Then I got a letter from my husband in London. This was the first time in 14 years I heard from my husband. He wondered if I could come to him in Botswana with the children. It meant the start of a new form of suffering. As an exile I traveled secretly  to Botswana in 1976. In Botswana I waited for a year for a visa to be able to join my husband in England. My children were ill and I worried about the welfare of my family and friends back home. Eventually my husband and I were reunited in England in 1978.

Here my story ends, however, I am just one of the many thousands of women who have similar and often even worse stories to tell,’ said Shumakazi Jako.

Women in the liberation movements

In the liberation movements ANC, PAC and BCM an equal role for woman was not a matter of course. For a long time women were kept out of the political events in the country. In founding the SANNC (later ANC), the first national liberation movement in 1912, no women were involved.

Buni Sexwale, Sharpeville Commemoration 1991, Nijmegen P: Azania Komitee

Buni Sexwale (ANC)16 recalled in 1991, during the Sharpeville Commemoration in the Netherlands17, that not until the 1940s women were admitted to resistance organizations and criticized the fact that no women were present in the negotiating forums on the future of South Africa. She stressed that holding positions by women was not sufficient to prioritize the equality of women.

Christine Qunta (BCM) argued in 1992 that ‘Political movements have not done enough to train women to be leaders.’18 And ‘We didn’t call ourselves feminists but we didn’t take nonsense from men; we weren’t going to be  pushed around.’19

Arun Naicker (UMTAPO)20 in 1993: ‘In the struggle for liberation black men are our comrades and allies. The ‘white sisters’ are on the side of the oppressors… We believe that black solidarity is still the most powerful weapon against imperialism and neo-colonialism. In order to strengthen that solidarity black men must stop regarding black women as slaves and treat them as objects that are for the taking at all times. In other words: black men should stop treating and judging black women the way white society basically sees and treats the black population. The impact of patriarchy on the self-awareness of the black woman corresponds to the psychological effects of white racism on the black population.’

Mojanku Gumbi21 (AZAPO) thought about setting up a women’s party in 1993. She observed a surprising lack of women at central decision-making levels of the black liberation movements. ‘Struggle for gender equality was still being treated as separate from the national struggle for liberation when in fact they were linked and should be treated with equal seriousness.’22

Women’s lib in exile

‘Women have the right to play a part in the political activities of the nation’

In the years prior to the abolition of Apartheid and the legalization of the liberation movements in 1990 the discussion on the role and position of women was in particular within the framework of  the struggle for national liberation. Women had to fight for their equal place.

In 1980 PAC organized together with UNESCO their first women seminar in Dar es Salaam23. The PAC ‘felt compelled to organize a seminar for women of Azania to enable them to analyze their special position’. Representing the Azania Komitee Rita Grijzen attended the seminar as observer and reported on the seminar in Azania Vrij24.

PAC Women Seminar,1980 P: Azania Komitee

Stella Moabi (1944-2017), member of the PAC since the launch in 1959 spoke: ‘The role of the PAC women has evolved from becoming a PAC member by marrying to a uniformed cadre in a military PAC camp.’ From the start of the PAC in 1959 ‘our leaders at the time knew that the enemy would react violently. They made the strategic decision that women should not be directly involved (in the Affirmative Action Campaign), so they could keep family life running in case the men were in prison. In spite of these decisions women of all ages played an important role… and the women took their places alongside the men’. Within a year of its foundation the PAC was banned25. PAC leadership and many other PAC men were imprisoned. It was the PAC women who turned the PAC into a well-organized underground movement.

PAC Women Seminar 1980, Tanzania P: Azania Komitee

Christine Qunta, one of the attending BCM representatives at the seminar: ‘If men in the liberation movement not re-learn to support involvement of women and rather simply engage them for their own amusement or status, then that means that the number of militants will be reduced and the struggle hampered.’

Christine Qunta

Christine Qunta was a member of the Western Cape regional leadership of SASO and BPC. In 1975 she fled to Botswana. She studied law in Australia and worked as a lawyer in Botswana and Zimbabwe. In 1993 she returned to South Africa and started her own law firm. Christine Qunta wrote the poetry collection Hoyi Na! Azania26, Women in Southern Africa 27and Why we are not a nation28.

Another representative of the Black Consciousness Movement: ‘Women are entitled to play a part in the political activities of the nation. Lilian Ngoyi29 led the demonstrations against the Pass Laws in 1956. In 1952 she was elected president of the ANC Women’s League. Cynthia Dichaba and Patricia Phetalo were found guilty of being members of and promoting the goals of the banned PAC in the mid-sixties. They were accused of having on them inflammatory pamphlets against the South African racist regime.’

The more prominent role of the BCM, led by SASO, BPC and NAYO30 and other organizations affiliated to the BCM, paralleled the more prominent role of women, who were on an equal footing with men. ‘Female high-calibre militants were standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tiros, Bikos and Shezis. It will not be surprising Winnie Kgware was elected the first president of the BPC… … During the period of 1972-74 the struggle in Azania could not have taken place without the active participation of the female workers. The formation of the Black Women’s Federation, the development of the BCM in general and the organized involvement of women in the struggle represent a historic milestone.’

Poster Azania Komitee, W.Gerritsen

A combatant of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) spoke at the PAC Women Seminar about what a woman has to do during the liberation struggle. She said: ‘A committed and keen woman cadre carries three weapons: a gun to defend the masses and fight against the enemy; a political awareness with which she leads the masses; the knowledge how to produce food to feed the masses.’

‘Many men are stuck in old patterns and notions about women with which they are raised’

Three years later, 8 March 1983, Irene Scheltes represented the Azania Komitee at the celebration of the International Women’s Day in London. The female warriors from the Third World31were well represented. They came from El Salvador, Chile, Ireland, Azania/South Africa (PAC an ANC), Palestine (PLO) and Namibia. Stella Moabi and Zoey Ethel Ntombizonke Mokgadi-Mbobela represented the PAC. At the time Stella Moabi lived in exile in England and remained active for the PAC there. Zoey Mokgadi lived in exile in West-Germany and co-ordinated there the PAC Women’s Organization.

The issues on the agenda are still relevant today: women in the struggle for national liberation, feminism and revolution, women under repressive regimes, immigration and minorities, Third World feminism versus western feminism, women from the Third World and the media, health and education, women and religion, hidden racism, anti-semitism and zionism. Even back then it was argued that no white woman could be exonerated from racism, no matter how unintentional or unaware that might have been.

Stella Moabi (1944-2017) spoke about life under a repressive regime: ‘Everything is dictated: what you should and should not do. That had an impact on family life. The ordeals you were put through from the outside travel home with you. The misery of the farm, the workplace and the mine becomes the misery in the living room and the bedroom. Already in terms of the male-female relationships the measures of a repressive regime have a massive impact. In racist South Africa it may happen that a man coming from his work is stopped by a police officer and cannot show his passbook. Even when he does not get arrested he comes home in a bad mood and will take it out on his wife. It can become worse. When your husband is arrested it may happen that in the beginning you are not even informed. Nobody is going to tell you anything. You are going to look for him at three locations: the hospital, the prison or the morgue. In that order. You are overwhelmed by anguish, concern and struggle. As a woman you do not only worry about your own safety or about the pain you have to endure in torture, but you are also terrified about your children: what have they got to eat, are they safe, how scared to death are they and how does this terror affect them.’

Zoey Mokgadi, Rotterdam P: Azania Komitee

Zoey Mokgadi emphasized that in Azania it is about a national liberation struggle of men and women. ‘However it is also a fact that men dominate women… Many men are stuck in old patterns and notions about women with which they are raised: for example that women should not be fighting because they cannot and because we should be protected by the men… that kind of thinking and male domination in general can be fought by pointing out that women in prison, in daily life, in the struggle experience exactly the same problems and therefore have the same rights!’

Also within the PAC we have to deal with ideas such as ‘women should not fight’, says Stella Moabi but ‘in APLA the female cadres are trained on the same basis as men, and women have equal promotion opportunities’.

Both women also tried to get in touch with white feminist groups. That was complicated in a situation in which the accepted Anti-Apartheid Movements propagated only support for the ANC. Women from the Third World did not have that problem. Good contacts were maintained with for example PLO women and Chilean women. Together with the PLO women they fought for reclaiming their land. ‘They for Palestine and we for Azania, that creates a bond.’

To white women they sent the message to lead ‘not our struggle’ and for example not to tell us how oppressive FGM is. In fact this does not occur in Azania. ‘No-one denies this is horrible for women. It is a matter left to African women alone to decide to fight that and to decide the time they believe to be right. They can support us but never dictate us.’

Zoey Mokgadi , husband Phillip and sons Monale and Potlako with their band ‘Izwe Lethu’. Sharpeville Commemoration 1981, Rotterdam

‘I never doubted whether or not to continue the struggle’

Nomvo Booi representing the PAC at UN General Meeting

Nomvo ‘Poqokazi’ Booi (1929-2016) was active in the liberation struggle at a very young age, first in the ANC, later in the PAC of which she was one of the founding members and became a member of the Central Committee. She belonged to the first female cadres of APLA/POQO and was regional secretary of the underground PAC in the Transkei. ‘She was acting as an underground courier for the military wing of the PAC… She was a very brave woman. She would literally carry weapons from Lesotho and infiltrate those weapons into South Africa, crossing the borders illegally and setting up the dead letter boxes inside the country for the soldiers to have access to weapons so they could continue to fight. While she was in Tanzania, this role was solidified when she was assigned the role of secretary for health and social welfare. She had to ensure that the soldiers were well taken care of with regard to medical treatment, food supply and mediation with their families in South Africa.’32

Eleven times Nomvo Booi had spent in South African prisons, had been subjected to torture and had spent nearly one year in solitary confinement.

In Londen, 1983, Irene Scheltes (Azania Komitee) had an interview with Nomvo Booi. This interview is re-published on the Azania Archive website33 Nomvo Booi: ‘I never doubted whether or not to continue the struggle.’

During the celebration of the International Women’s Day on 8 March 1983 in London Nomvo Booi passionately pleaded for a borderless one Africa. Both an activist and an unassuming woman she died in South Africa in 2016 at the age of 87.

Ongoing struggle

Elisabeth Sibeko, PAC J’burg 1992

In 1984 Elisabeth Rejoice Sibeko outlined again in the UN34 the situation of women in Apartheid South Africa: ‘Besides having to fight for her own rights, she had to keep the family together, educate her children in a society where education for Blacks was neither free nor compulsory and job opportunities few and far between. She had to see her men folk either arrested, detained or even murdered. She had to endure the mother’s torture of seeing her children ruthlessly mowed down by the trigger-happy racist police. In several cases she had to endure the life of a widow or virtual widow.She mentions Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe (1927–2018) who could not be with her husband Mangaliso Sobukwe35 for years for he was a prisoner on Robben Island. And: ‘Mrs Urbania Mothopeng, the wife of Comrade Mothopeng has had to endure enforced separation from her husband since the late 50s.’ She also mentions Galiema Haron the widow of Imam Abdullah Haron36,  ‘a PAC member and underground worker who was tortured to death’. Elisabeth Sibeko spoke for the by then established PAC Women’s Organization.

Elisabeth Sibeko (1938-1999) was born in Utrecht in KwaZulu-Natal. ‘She was born to a Zulu Mother and a father whom would be classified as ‘Coloured’ in the demented racial caste system foisted on Africans who neither cared or had the slightest allegiance to the hateful bigotry of European White Supremacy.’37

Later she left for Soweto and met there her husband David Sibeko, who worked as a journalist for Drum Magazine. In the Baragwanath Hospital she studied to become a nurse. Together with David they were among the founders of the PAC in 1959.

After resistance against the pass laws (Sharpeville 1960) the PAC started the armed struggle by forming POQO38. Her husband joined the armed wing. ‘After several operations, David Sibeko was arrested and charged with treason by the South African police and would spend close to a year in the jails of the oppressor. The torture that David endured in jail took its toll on his wife and family, and Elizabeth endured constant harassment from the police, irrespective of the fact that she was pregnant.’39

In 1963 he was released ‘on a technicality’. Elisabeth and David Sibeko fled the country with their children on a mission to represent the PAC abroad. ‘A tale of heroic and epic proportions is the only way to describe the escape that David and Elizabeth Sibeko made, with three tiny children in tow from the inevitable clutches of a sinister Apartheid State. It would include assistance from the late Nadine Gordimer40 who would scurry Elizabeth and her kids away from the Special Branch police, to harrowing experiences in the arid danger filled bush of Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania. Sometimes on foot, sometimes on the back of a makeshift coverage on trucks as they smuggled a family that were the targets of a murderous Apartheid State.’41

David Sibeko represented the PAC in Tanzania and East Africa and later in London. And finally he was the representative to the UN Permanent Observer Mission of the PAC.

After the Soweto uprising in 1976 many young people fled South Africa and reported for military training. Inspired by this, Elisabeth Sibeko also took military training. After David Sibeko was shot in 1979 Elizabeth Sibeko remained loyal to the liberation struggle. She joined the PAC Central Committee and was responsible for the PAC Women’s Projects. In the last years of her life she was struggling with diabetes. In 1999 she died in South Africa42.

The children of Elisabeth and David Sibeko founded the David & Elizabeth Sibeko Foundation. The Foundation ‘has been established and is the official platform dedicated solely to the lives of late David and Elizabeth Sibeko and the seminal role they played in the Liberation Struggle of Azania, their beloved Motherland.43

Maud Jackson, 1988, Tanzania. P: Azania Komitee

Maud Jackson

During a visit to the PAC in in Tanzania in 1988 I met Maud Jackson (Mama Mzungu). She was at the head of the PAC Women’s Organization in Dar Es Salaam, the PAC’s foreign headquarters. In that capacity Maud Jackson (1930-2016) was responsible for empowering women to join the struggle. She opened, for example, a daycare centre, arranged adequate contraceptive precautions and nutrition campaigns.

Maud Jackson was 9 years old when she was separated from her white parents. The racial categorization by the Apartheid regime classified her as ‘coloured’. This was one of the factors that determined her early political activism.

‘Important for ‘South Africans’ to understand that we too were once considered ‘foreigners’, ‘homeless’, ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum seekers’ in various countries around the world’

Gladys Qabukile Nzimande-Tsolo lived for many years as a refugee in various locations throughout the world. She had lived in Rotterdam, together with her husband and 2 children, for over 20 years. Her husband Nyakane Tsolo (1939-2002) led in 1960 the Sharpeville March against the Pass Laws44.

Gladys Tsolo had been a freedom fighter of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC, from the 1960s to the early 1970s. She was among the first female guerrillas. She trained in Tanzania, the Soviet Union  and East Germany. Later she joined the PAC.

 ‘I grew up in a coal mining area around Newcastle in a small township with one main street called Dawnhauser. Traditions were not very strict. I came from a Christian family and my mother was very religious. We were Methodists45.’  She left her hometown in the early 1960s hoping to be able to train for nursing in Johannesburg or at least to be able to continue her education. Gladys Tsolo: ‘Unfortunately, I, like so many unemployed youth, had to work as a domestic worker and worked for a while at a local butchery in Orlando-East, Soweto46.’ In the end she left for Botswana hoping to attend a nurse training programme. ‘However, the promised nursing school turned out to be a missionary station which was run by Catholic nuns from Ireland; there was no nursing training and, again, we were forced to do domestic work. There I met other young Azanian women and one of them became my best friend, Elizabeth Maluleka.’

Botswana, Tanzania, Soviet Union

 ‘Together we left Maun and headed to Francistown and it was there where we met young men who had recently arrived from Azania. We joined them in the recently set up Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) military camp in Francistown called Luthuli Camp. Thereafter, I traveled as an MK combatant throughout Africa, and received further military training in Odessa, Russia. After a year I returned back to Tanzania and stationed at the MK-camp Khongwa in Dar es Salaam.’

East Germany

‘I finally got my nursing training in 1965 after arriving in East Berlin (East Germany). And it was there at the Lumumba Institute in the city of Leipzig, far away from home, that I met the love of my life, the ever charming Nyakane Tsolo. (..) During our dating period we spoke often about our respective journeys from Azania into exile, our upbringing in Azania, our coming into political consciousness, as well as our longing for home and the pain of missing family. He became my family and, together, we formed our political radicalism, developed our Pan-Africanist consciousness and steadfast commitment to the liberation struggle.47 In Germany I got training to become a midwife and he studied physics and chemistry. We got married and got our first child, a girl which he named after his oldest sister, Julia Teboho.’

 About her experiences in East Germany Gladys Tsolo tells: ‘Azanians there were completely cut off the struggle and the outside world, unless someone was lucky enough to have a powerful radio. All there was were Sechaba and Spotlight: two journals which were produced in de GDR and which did not say very much.48 In 1966, there was a very strong campaign of indoctrination in the GDR. There was no chance to think and develop political consciousness. All travel to the West was forbidden. The atmosphere in de GDR was very oppressive, and I could not gain political satisfaction. Also there was a very strong line against the PAC. Sharpeville was never mentioned49.’

 The Netherlands, Rotterdam

 ‘In 1973 we left East Germany in secret to the Netherlands, and received assistance from two Dutch left-leaning students when we arrived as refugees at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol with no passports, just our suitcases. We spent weeks in a police holding cell with our daughter, a painful and stressful and traumatic experience for any parent. Eventually we were transferred to a refugee shelter in the second largest city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam, which became our home for the next 20 years. Whilst in the refugee shelter we had our second child, a boy, Zakhele Liholo.

In addressing some of the frequent outbursts of Afrophobia rampant in our society, it is quite important for ‘South Africans’ to understand that we too were once considered ‘foreigners’, ‘homeless’, ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum seekers’ in various countries around the world50.’

In Rotterdam: ‘It was a stressful time because we no longer had protection from any political organization. We both had to work multiple jobs in order to take care of our young family, learn a new language, he excelled a bit better than myself in Dutch. But it was hard; we were poor and missed our home – Azania – immensely. (….) When Nyakane met David Sibeko, then PAC’s Permanent Observer at the United Nations, in the Netherlands, he became the PAC representative for the Benelux, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg. We returned to Azania in 1992 at the height of the CODESA negotiaties51.’

Gladys Tsolo campaigning for the Upington 14. 1990 J. Bosch College, Den Bosch P: Azania Komitee

In the Netherlands Gladys Tsolo could not work in her profession as a midwife. She enrolled in a professional course Socio-Cultural Work and studied for some years Social History and Museology.52  Among other things she worked as a community work volunteer. She participated in the start-up of the women’s group WOVO (Work Group Career Development for Women in Overschie). For many years the Azania Komitee had worked closely together with Gladys and her husband Nyakane Tsolo.

Gladys Tsolo, 1993 in Rotterdam P: Maryam Afshar Lahoori.

‘There are many women in South African jails who are never publicized, but who have made a greater contribution to the struggle than those who have been publicized.’

Gladys Tsolo points out in a 1978 interview in ‘Face of Azania’ that thousands of Azanian women have contributed to the liberation struggle. ‘There are many women in South African jails who are never publicized, but who have made a greater contribution to the struggle than those who have been publicized. There is Dorothy Nyembe who is still in prison in Kroonstad in the Orange Free State53. There is Lilian Ngoyi, who was leader of the ANC Women’s League in the 1950s and who is still under house arrest in Orlando East. There is Elizabeth Mafeking in Lesotho, Amina Desai54 in prison in Kroonstad and many other women who remain committed to the struggle.’ And last but not least Urbania Mothopeng: ‘a very prominent woman in the struggle. Comrade Mothopeng has stood by her husband (Zeph Mothopeng, leader PAC) through the years of constant harassment and detention.’

 ‘..it is unfortunate that most Azanian women, especially the uneducated, are not really aware that they are the most oppressed of the oppressed. Most of the women who have been prominent in the struggle have either husbands who were active or have been educated. One exception has been Ellen Molapo55, who was the leader of the Garment Workers Union and who was prominent in the early days of the PAC. Also there are the women who have to bring up a family while their husbands suffer detention on Robben Island or elsewhere. These poor ‘widows’ of the liberation struggle deserve much more attention. We hear constantly about Winnie Mandela, but nothing about the thousands of other women whose husbands are in detention. Winnie Mandela has been in a middle-class intellectual circle which has publicized her case. Nobody knows about the working women in the struggle. Those women who struggle and hold together the family while husbands and children are in detention are the finest Azanians.’

 ‘The women are always the first to react in a crisis situation and will often sacrifice themselves to protect the family. For instance, when Mike, my husband, got up and went to the police station in Sharpeville on 21 March 1960, the women were the first to be involved. At 4 a.m. they were up and urging their husbands to join. So, you see that Azanian women have been social activists for a long time.’

In 1978 two women were members of the PAC leadership. Gladys Tsolo: ‘It shows that political leadership is no longer confined to men. Both Gertrude Mathutha and Beth Sibeko have done much for the PAC over a long period of time.There is a great potential among women for mobilization in the liberation struggle. One can point to examples such as the Cato Manor uprisings in which women organized themselves to challenge the way in which the entire South African colonial system was exploiting them. For instance the women undertook violent action, including the attempted destruction of the beer halls, only to be restrained by reformist African politicians of that period of the late 1950s. Today we see that a Women’s Movement is necessary to uplift women from their oppression. A special effort is necessary to bring women fully into the national liberation struggle as equals to men.’

 ‘In America and Europe, both East and West, women’s organizations are generally not involved in struggles for genuine social liberation. Inside Azania, neither men nor women have rights, the only right that Azanian men and women have is the right to become servants, the right to be ignorant and the right to live in the Bantustans. Therefore, in Azania, women’s liberation must be firmly linked to national liberation.’

Together with her daughter Julia Teboho Nzimande she set up the Nyakane Tsolo Foundation in 2018: ‘to memorialize and educate the public about his legacy and contributions to the Azanian liberation struggle. Through the Foundation we will ensure that he and other forgotten ordinary people have their place carved out in the national consciousness and collective memory of this country; history must remember them….we should go beyond cosmetic and romantic engagements about the past; we must seriously interrogate what we can do today to bring justice to legacies and memory of those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and nourished this soil with their blood56.’

Women’s organizations in Apartheid South Africa

‘The black woman has endured  many sufferings’

In 1982 women of the Black Consciousness Movement started Black Women Unite: ‘The black woman has endured  many sufferings. Apart from having to play a double role as a mother and nanny, she has been exposed to harassment and injustices of the detention laws of this country.’ Black Women Unite developed campaigns and projects for homeless people, for families of political prisoners and in the area of education and union work.

Mmagauta Molefe in Rotterdam, 1985 P: J. Warner

Mmagauta Molefe, member of AZAPO and co-founder of Black Women Unite, paid a hurried visit to the Netherlands in 1985. She spoke at meetings organized by the Evert Vermeer Stichting57 in The Hague and the Azania Komitee in Rotterdam. She also met with CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal) and CPN (Dutch Communist Party) women. The radio show Hoor Haar (VARA – Association of Worker Radio Amateurs) broadcast an interview with her.

As a black woman Mmagauta Molefe, then 32 years old, faced the degrading treatment by the police. It happened in schools, on the street, at work and with your parents. ‘We called the police terrorists instead of protectors.’58

Mmagauta Molefe started her political activities in high school and became involved with SASM59 and SASO. Because of her political activities she was kicked out of college. She was a member of the BPC60 until this organization together with all other Black Consciousness Movement organizations was banned in 1977. During the Soweto uprising in 1976 she was a member of the parents’ committee and was detained without charge from July to December in that year. She had been arrested before in 1974 and 1975, among other things for the activities organized by the Black Consciousness Movement on the occasion of the independence of Mozambique led by FRELIMO.

Mmagauta Molefe: ‘I was born in Alexandra, grew up in Soweto. We were one of the first residents in 1956. I was 4 years old then. I have worked as a freelance journalist for a full-time job was not possible. In the papers I could fill the women’s pages, about fashion, recipes and stuff… once you are politically active the police tell your employer who you are. You get easily fired. Now I am jobless. ’

After the ban on the Black Consciousness Movement she joined AZAPO which furthered the ideas of the Black Consciousness Movement. In 1982 she took the lead in forming Black Women Unite. Mmagauta Molefe: ‘We saw that women were hardly politically active. Women were much preoccupied with the everyday concerns in their households and the upbringing of their children, especially those women who had to live separated from their husbands by the system of migrant labour. In addition, women who work in the factories have their household chores. Women are underpaid and are deprived in the field of education. The black woman is oppressed as a woman, as a black woman and as a worker. You have to understand we want to organize women but not as a feminist organization that fights men. It is all about raising women’s and men’s awareness, so they both can share their responsibility and can work together in political organizations with the same political rights. We try to have women in the leadership of organizations and to organize activities to do some catching up. Men who become active often take their mothers, wives and sisters.’  

Black Women Unite wanted in particular to expose the inferior position of black women in a capitalist society. According to Mmagauta Molefe it is about ’making black women aware to effectively join the struggle against poverty, ignorance, diseases and domination. To encourage them to rely on their own strength and to stimulate initiative.’

In health campaigns Black Women Unite pointed out that hospitals prescribed black patients medication past the expiration date. Black patients were used as test subjects. Mmagauta Molefe spoke about the anti-Depo-Provera campaign. This birth control pill (‘the shot’) was given to black women on a large scale. This frequently happened, for example just after childbirth, without their knowledge. The usual dose of this contraceptive lasts at most 10 to 11 weeks. Black women were administered a dose that could last 1 to 2 years. This could lead to constant infertility and poisoning in lactating mothers. This pharmaceutical, a product of the American Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company, was manufactured in Belgium.

Black Women Unite supported the anti-asbestoscampaign61 started by the BAMCWU (Black Allied Mining and Construction Workers’ Union). Miners worked without protection and children played in waste heaps containing the carcinogenic asbestos. Asbestos was processed into building materials for houses and schools. The BAMCWU demanded compensation and closure of the mines.

Together with 400 other black organizations Black Women Unite took part in the National Forum, formed in 1983. ‘Our situation is the result of colonization, capitalism and imperialism. Our concern is to reclaim the land from the colonial occupiers’, explains Mmagauta Molefe.

‘Black is a political concept. The oppressed majority versus the oppressing minority’

It is vital that black people organized themselves as black people. Mmagauta Molefe:‘White people in South Africa are the only ones protected by the law. They can possess land and companies. In Azania they have never found themselves in the situation of the blacks: unskilled jobs, repression,

humiliation. It is our experience that most white people when they cooperate in the same organization tell us what we must do. We are raised differently; whites in a spirit of superiority and in a privileged position. They have been taught to look upon blacks as inferior. Instinctively they often impose things on blacks. If they want to support us we would urge them to do that in their own organizations and community. For us it is a matter of survival, something white people are not familiar with. Black also includes people of colour and people of Asian origin. Black is a political concept. The oppressed majority versus the oppressing minority.’

Imbeleko Women’s Organisation originated from Black Women Unite. In 1988 the organization campaigned against the privatization plans of healthcare. Imbeleko’s motto is ‘carrying the nation’. These days Imbeleko runs projects such as brick laying, carpentry and upholstery.

 Mmagauta Molefe recently made the documentary ‘Surviving John Vorster Square62 on the ordeals of a group of female former political prisoners who were detained in the notorious John Vorster63 Police Headquarters in Johannesburg during the 70s and 80s. Torture was commonplace there. In this documentary they speak of the price they paid for their political activism. Mmagauta Molefe was one of them and as a result had a miscarriage.

Mmagauta Molefe set up the ‘Legacy Foundation, a platform for intergenerational dialogue and community and aims to tell our stories, to remember where we come from, appreciate who we are, and work for a better tomorrow.’64

In a telephone conversation65 Mmagauta Molefe explains that in present South Africa black women still have a lot of catching up to do in many areas. The level of unemployment among women is high. Recent figures indicate an unemployment rate of 53.2% among black women. According to the South African police 10,000 women were raped between April-June 2021. And nearly 500 of these women had to deal with domestic violence. 164 women died as a result of domestic violence.66 ‘Women still lack confidence in themselves.Mmagauta Molefe expects nothing from the present government. The women need to actively change the situation themselves.

Looking back on her visit to Western Europe in 1985 I asked Mmagauta Molefe what had struck her. She recalled an invitation for a lunch in a church in Germany. The chairs had been removed and everyone was supposed to sit on the floor. For lunch some kind of porridge that was supposed to be South African was served. She refused to sit on the cold floor and to eat the tasteless lunch.

White feminists entered into a debate with her on Lobola (dowry) and polygamy. They labeled that as an oppressive culture. Mmagauta: ‘The feminists in question were saying African women were allowing practices like Lobola and polygamy to oppress them, that we should also organize against these practices. I refused to be drawn into these discussions because people all over the world have their own culture, that my tour was about information about our political situation. Lobola is a practice where the groom and his family show gratitude to the woman’s family, that it was not to buy her. Also it didn’t really have a monetary value, the gifts were in cows or other valuable things. That is how it was practised. It was the one that defined marriage in our culture. If it was not done a person is not regarded as married. But now because of the influence of western culture some people charge exuberant amounts and it is looked at as a price, although still negotiable.67 Polygamous practices were done with the permission of the 1st wife, to the extent that she could also suggest it to the husband or the prospective younger wife.’ 

Mmagauta Molefe still serves the black community: ‘I trained as a life coach and provided the service free of charge to the youth by appointment. This helped to give some direction to be in charge of their lives or get further professional assistance where necessary. I also provided groceries (not at a large scale) to a few families and assisted some to access social grants. The main thing is I encourage people to tell and write their stories.’

Mmagauta Molefe, Rotterdam. Irene Scheltes (L) and Stoffelien Cool from Azania Komitee P: J. Warner

Mmagauta Molefe tells about her film and plans for the future: ‘The documentary is just the beginning, it will be followed up by a book. But I already have another documentary about Ntsane Street (Soweto) in mind. This street and surrounding area has a rich BC history. And there’s quite a number of people who resided in that street during the height of our struggle. I am tracing a few unsung heroines of the struggle to create some footage and put them on line. The book collection and  reading project collapsed because of Covid. But there’s people who are prepared to revive it. The idea is to get the young people drive these projects, volunteer and create jobs for themselves while learning. So that when some of us are gone there can be continuity.’

African Women’s Organization

‘Our womenfolk fear a lot’

Urbania Mothopeng, Paris,1986 P: Cineclub Vrijheidsfilms

The Africa Women’s Organisation (AWO)68 was set up in 1986. The organization, affiliated to the then banned PAC, was particularly committed to uniting women of African descent and stimulating them through politics and education to join the struggle against racism, economic exploitation and for national liberation. At the same time, joined by men, fighting male dominance and superiority was on the agenda.

The women’s section of the SABMAWU organized the establishment69 of the AWO. From all over the country about 500 women came together. They represented various trade unions and women’s organizations as, for example, the Transvaal United African Teachers’ Association (TUATA) and the  Domestic Workers Association in Port Elisabeth. Urbania Bebe Mothopeng was elected as the first president.

The Azania Komitee and Cineclub spoke with Urbania Mothopeng in Paris during the World Conference on Sanctions against Racist South Africa in June 198670. At the time of the interview everyone in occupied Azania was on edge. The Apartheid regime had again declared a state of emergency to clamp down on the multiple activities of resistance and commemoration to mark the Soweto uprising in June 1976. At that moment her husband Zeph Mothopeng was, for the second time,  imprisoned on Robben Island71.

Urbania Mothopeng on AWO: ‘This is a very, very new organization and it may look a little bit different from the other women’s organizations, that it emphasizes African…. But I am not trying to solicit racism. I am just trying to say, our interests differ a little from other people, our goals may not be the same. Our objectives are among others to rally the women around, try and show them, educate them on not necessarily political issues but it will come into the picture later on… into issues like fear. Our womenfolk fear a lot. The police can harass us, the police can mislead us, the police can force us to say things that normally we would not say, just because they do not understand either the language or the very set-up itself. So that basically we have to show them that fear must not be the objective, we must learn to understand, and to do things.’

‘The women who belong to our association, and will continue to come I think, will be the women who are in the very lower income group, women who are not working, women who are really not educated…as we know how housing is in our country…women who come from shacks and so on. Because these are the women who know the difficulties, these are the women who need help…but as I say, we are not looking at the colour of it at all. Coloureds, Asians, Whites…anybody…if they feel they wanted to join us…they were able to come, provided they could answer one or two questions: What we would do.…I could say: I live in this kind of a structure, and so are most of us. Now, you come from uptown. Now in order that you can feel exactly what we feel, are you prepared to give up all what you have, to come and live among us and understand exactly what we understand? Our struggle for a better life: we want to work, eat, clothe and have homes like everybody. But now we know those people will not come, therefore we know automatically they fall out because of that, but should they say ‘Yes’, then ‘OK’.’

In 1986 AWO campaigned for the Sharpeville Six who were sentenced to death72. One of the Six was Theresa Ramashamole, the first black woman sentenced to death. The campaign to save them from the gallows was internationally led by Joyce Mokhesi73, sister of one of the Six and the mother of Theresa, Julia Ramashamole.

Urbania Mothopeng 1917-2005

Urbania Mothopeng was a musician, conductor, teacher, social worker and family planning consultant. She was detained for her political activities and for supporting her husband. After a short stay in Europe and the United States Urbania Mothopeng returned to South Africa. In the US she spoke for the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid. She called for equal treatment of all political prisoners in South Africa and no discrimination based upon certain political organizations they were members of. The BCM and the PAC suffered from biased solidarity because western nations and western Anti-Apartheid Movements74 only supported the ANC. Urbania Mothopeng : ‘I urge the international community to provide assistance to political prisoners without discrimination regarding political tendencies… Every imprisoned patriot was making a sacrifice for a just and noble cause and must be accorded respect’.75

Urbania Mothopeng was of humble origin. Her parents had not had any education. Father worked as a policeman and mother worked for white families as a domestic worker. Urbania Mothopeng:I was very unfortunate that at the age of five I lost my father…abandoning my poor mother with three children, but, as I say, my mother was a hard worker. The kind of job my mother did was such that she did not have to stay there. She came in and out three times a week and the rest of the week she had to do the washing. In those days we had to fetch the washing from town and did the washing in the township. She augmented that by selling liquor and that is the kind of life I was brought up in, but of course it did not sort of influence my life and other children’s lives. We all went to school but most unfortunately my brother died earlier and so only two of us were left.’

In 1941 she married Zeph Mothopeng76, then a high school teacher. ‘I continued my teaching career and I don’t think I have stayed long enough with my husband. I have always stayed without my husband, because even when I married my husband, I knew he was a man who was interested in doing things and he saw that the country was at fault, and he thought he was going to get it straight…. Then of course I always lived in fear that we would lose our jobs… but all the same I gave him the go-ahead. I looked after the children, I brought up the four children, and before long he was expelled from the high school for the same politics as I thought he would and I had to work alone.’ In 1948 she spent two years away from home to study didactics. Zeph looked after the children during that period. Urbania Mothopeng: ‘For a very long time I have not taken part in women’s organizations because I had always felt they were political, and because I was an old-fashioned teacher and I knew that I have to make a vow I shall not be involved in politics as it is.’

During the notorious and lengthy Bethal Trial in which her husband Zeph was on trial together with other PAC leaders she was also arrested under the Terrorism Act. They pressured her to testify against her husband. She refused to betray her husband.

Privacy was a foreign word

When her husband was seriously ill and up for parole in 1989 Urbania Mothopeng tells: ‘..the grandchildren and I never got a chance to be with him and talk about the family. People were always knocking at the door. Before I could tell them that my husband was still in bed, he had already peeped through the door and shouted ‘Come in!’ In no time people would be sitting in our bedroom. Privacy was a foreign word to me’.77 They had been married for 50 years but as a result of the banishments and prison sentences they could eventually be together for just 17 years78.

When asked in 1986 how she looks back on her life Urbania Mothopeng answers: ‘I don’t regret the life I have led. It has only been an inconvenience as far as particularly my family concerned. But I do not regret the part that my family had played, the role that my family had played in society. I have seen great things, financially I am poor but spiritually I am very rich.’ About her marriage to Zeph: ‘I’ve got married to a gentleman, and I still think there is nobody to match him.’

‘Disabled does not mean unable’

AZAYO poster, 1991

In 1991 I met in South Africa Phindile Mavuso, vice president of AZAYO (Azanian Youth Organisation). She worked closely together with trade unionist and AZAYO president Thami Mcerwa.

During the Soweto uprising in 1976 she was wounded by police fire. Because of this gunshot wound she had to lose her leg. Later she worked for disabled people in South Africa and became active in the Disability Rights Movement. She underlined the necessity for communities to get rid of stereotyping disabled people.

Phindile Mavuso on the way to Mafeking,1991 P: Azania Komitee

Phindile: ‘I don’t need pity and handicaps (obstacles), I need accessibility. We all need to be given a chance to prove our worth79.’And ‘disabled does not mean unable’.

With Phindile Mavuso and other AZAYO comrades I traveled to the hospital in Mafeking to visit AZANLA (Azanian National Liberation Army) combattant George Biya. He had gone on a hunger strike in protest at denying him an appeal against the prison sentences of 3 and 10 years imposed on him.

Exile and racism in the Netherlands

‘People show us sympathy from a sense of superiority and colonialism’

‘South African women in the Netherlands also face here racism, Apartheid, also within solidarity groups.’ This is what women concluded at a conference80 in 1986 organized by black women from South Africa staying in the Netherlands. Oshadi Mangena, since 1977 in the Netherlands as a political refugee, was critical of the paternalism and whiteness of the Dutch Anti-Apartheidorganizations, no matter their intentions.

Oshadi Mangena 1989, the Netherlands

Oshadi Mangena: ‘The Dutch need to understand that the root of Apartheid is in colonialism. Land has been stolen from us blacks. We are exploited as cheap labour and dumped in the ‘homelands’. Apartheid exists to maintain the status quo… In the Netherlands we are subjected to the same conditions as in South Africa. Solidarity groups do not realize that South Africa is in the Netherlands too. E.g. a black woman works as a nurse but was ignored by the patient’s family for they were looking for a real white nurse. In shops black women are frequently watched because the assumption is they are going to steal. Discrimination is so omnipresent you do not even notice it anymore.’

‘People show sympathy from a sense of superiority and colonialism. Solidarity groups ask which party you belong to. But in South Africa as a black person, whether you are organized or not, you are involved in the struggle, whether you want to or not. We are forced by solidarity groups to make political choices, which create division rather than unity. We have seen how South Africans in the Netherlands were not given the opportunity to meet fellow South Africans. They were told: ‘we have paid for the tickets’. She pointed out that ‘the ANC and PAC each have their own programme. Solidarity groups need to educate themselves in the history of Apartheid.’

In conclusion: ‘Do not see us as your hobby, for us it is a question of life and death…… We women from South Africa will definitely continue and from there joined by you. But it is vital you want to get to know us. You only think you know us.’81

The first question of a Dutch white woman at the end of the conference was typical: ‘How many South African women were present yesterday and did they see eye-to-eye?’ The reply: ‘This question is a typical example of what Oshadi has just said. Despite the differences among us in class or in privileges we are a homogeneous group. We share the same experience, which is being black…. The psychosocial mutilation we have endured cannot be seen on our faces. Not all of us have been literally subjected to torture. And that mutilation we have to endure once again in the Netherlands!…Discrimination is often subtle, with good intentions, like now. We are not even talking about the average Dutchman. The main thing for us is that for the first time we as South African women get together.’82


In the wake of the conference Itweleng83 was set up in 1987, a South African/Azanian black women’s group in the Netherlands. They aimed at giving moral, physical and emotional support to South Africans in the Netherlands, and at organizing discussions between Azanian/South African women in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. In addition Itweleng wanted to enhance the nature of the solidarity of the Dutch public with the oppressed in Azania/South Africa.

Maphiri Masikela

In 1978 Maphiri Masikela (1945-1993) spoke at a number of Sharpeville Commemorations in the Netherlands84. She too criticized the Anti-Apartheid Movements which with their liberal thinking were in particular keeping themselves busy with speaking for the Azanians. She was referring to the solidarity which was limited to the ANC and silenced other voices. Also white women who came to tell what the (black) women’s lib should look like were criticized by her.

Sharpeville Commemoration, 1978, R’dam. R: Maphiri Masekela, L: D. Sibeko, C: V. Mayekiso, M. Boelsma

Maphiri Daphne Masikela played in South Africa a major role in the foundation of the BCM organizations. In ‘Black Consciousness and the Role of the Black Woman’ she wrote: ‘This liberation of the Black Women must however not be confused with the current ‘Women’s Liberation’ movement that is taking place in the white world.’ She emphasized that women must be part of the decision-making process (Women, Gender and the Black Consciousness Movement (1968-1977), Sibusisiwe Nxongo).

The Black Consciousness concept was central in her work as a social worker of the ecumenical Wilgespruit Fellowship Centre (WFC) in South Africa. In 1975 she had to flee the country. She died in Boston in 1993, only 48 years of age.

Maphiri Masekela, 1979 at Bagamoyo

In 1979 she guided members of the Azania Komitee (Rita Grijzen and Marjan Boelsma) during a visit of several days to the PAC refugee camp in Bagamoyo, Tanzania.

Human Rights – Women’s Rights 1995

In Rotterdam, 1995, several organizations organized on International Women’s Day the symposium Human Rights – Women’s Rights. The symposium was in the spirit of the upcoming Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, September 1995. Women from five sister cities of Rotterdam (Durban (South Africa), Corinto (Nicaragua), Shanghai (China), Saint Petersburg (Russia), Constanța (Rumania)) and Rotterdam institutions came together to discuss ‘the male-female relations with respect to local culture, social development, demographic growth and South-North relations’. This was initiated by the Rotterdam Women’s Council together with the Emancipation Agency Riet Hof and Work Centre International Solidarity (WIS/COS Rijnmond and South-Holland). The Azania Komitee was co-organizer and invited Asha Moodley and Oshadi Mangena.

Oshadi Mangena criticized the many international UN Conferences on development aid. ‘Development aid’ in her opinion meant that particularly capitalist industrialized countries create neo-colonial dynamics and thus perpetuate the oppression and exploitation of the colonial period. ‘In the 60s this ‘development aid’ was focused primarily on neglected agricultural regions and today the outcome is poverty and debts bigger than ever. There is no way interest rates can be paid by the developing countries under imperialist trade terms. In the 70s women were discovered as an even bigger economically underdeveloped target group for ‘development aid’.’

Oshadi Mangena, Rotterdam 1994. P: Azania Komitee

Three earlier UN World Conferences85 had already been held and women can participate themselves, but Oshadi Mangena wondered what in the end is in it for women and what is in store for the women in the South. What is their gain, she observed when their mainly unpaid labour is further integrated into the process of profit maximization under capitalist conditions?

Oshadi Maphefo Jane Mangena (1931-2015) taught Women and Emancipation at the INDRA (Institute Development Research Amsterdam) of the University of Amsterdam from 1984 to 1996. She obtained her PhD on the subject of: ‘Eurocentrism and the imperative of women’s emancipation in Sub-Saharan Africa’86. ‘It stands to reason that a redress of the condition of the African woman is intertwined with a package of compensation rather than with the burden of repaying a ‘foreign debt’ for the damage done to her country and her people through colonial plunder and capitalist oppression and exploitation.’ In South Africa she had been trained to become a nurse.

In 1977 she had to flee the country. In 1977 she was put under house arrest for her political activities for the Black Consciousness Movement (BPC en SASO). Previously she had been repeatedly detained without a charge and had been subjected to torture. She was held jointly responsible for the Soweto uprising in 197687. She testified about her experiences in prison before the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Before she fled the country she was regional director of the Christian Institute of Beyers Naudé. From 1974 to the ban in 1977 Oshadi was president of the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) in South Africa. During her exile she worked with the BCMA88 in exile. In 1994 she attended the first general elections in South Africa as an international observer of the South African churches.

Ashlatha (Asha) Moodley-Rambally  spoke in Rotterdam about the ongoing violence against women in South Africa. In 1995 there was less political violence but murder, robbery, rape and sexual harassment were commonplace. The figures from that period show that 1 in every 4 women was abused and that every 8 seconds a woman was raped.

Asha Moodley, 1995 at the Rotterdam Townhall. P: Azania Komitee

In 1995 Asha Moodley worked as legal advisor at Legal Resources Centre (LRC), a legal aid advice centre in Durban. She was also a board member and co-founder of UMTAPO (1986), an NGO in Durban which originated from the Black Consciousness Movement. In 1993 she was AZAPO Head of Information. From the AZAPO Women’s Committee she worked for the strengthening of the position of women in – and outside – the organization. In Umtapo she remained committed to adult education and training programmes for young people and women.

A turbulent history of resistance during the Apartheid regime and her commitment towards women’s liberation mark her life. During the Apartheid regime she founded together with others and her later husband Strini Moodley the critical theatre company The Clan, later TECON89, closely linked to the Black Consciousness Movement. In 1972 she was fired as a teacher because of her political ideas. In 1973 Asha Moodley worked part-time as a researcher/staff member in the publication department of the BPC led by Steve Biko. She was arrested after the Viva Frelimo rally in 1974. Later she gave her all to support banned and detained political activists and their families. In 1977 she became a fulltime researcher/staff member and then editor at the publication department of the Black People’s Convention (BPC) in King Williamstown. Shortly after Biko’s assassination in detention she too was arrested. Under section 6 of the Terrorism Act she was punished by solitary confinement. After that she spent 1 more year in preventive detention. After her release she was still under a 5-year banning order. In 1982 this banning order was lifted and she started working at the LRC. She joined AZAPO and for several years she was AZAPO secretary section Durban and North West Area.

Asha Moodley 1995 with Tineke Teunen (Emancipation Bureau R’dam) and Gladys Tsolo

Asha Moodley has for many years been involved in the South African magazine Agenda, Empowering women for gender equity90. She is on the Board of Directors and editorial board.

Rotterdam – Durban


The Municipality of Rotterdam supported in the 90s with funding from the ‘Fund Democratic Development Society South Africa’ the UMTAPO Centre and other organizations in Durban. The Campaign Rotterdam – Durban informed people from Rotterdam and their organizations about the situation in Durban and brought them into contact with people and organizations that worked in Durban at the heart of a new South Africa/Azania. The Campaign included projects and exchange in the areas of primary education, literacy, health, women’s organizations, minors, residential building and residents’associations.

UMTAPO concentrates on the most disadvantaged people in society. With the help of volunteers UMTAPO implements its programs. The programs aim to promote anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-corruption, peace and socio-economic justice through popular education. Its philosophical framework is based on an ethical African humanism (Ubuntu)’. UMTAPO was founded in 1987 during a period of much intra-community black violence (‘Black-on-black’violence). ‘A small group of KZN (KwaZuluNatal) activists from the Black Consciousness Movement and the Pan-Africanist and Charterist tendencies came together to consider the establishment of a non-partisan organisation that would provide the platform for dialogue, leadership training and distribution of relevant information.’

In the context of the Campaign Rotterdam-Durban Arun Naicker visited Rotterdam in 1994. She gave lectures on the situation of women in South Africa and the women empowerment projects of UMTAPO. She shared experiences with the Surinam Women’s House, WOVO (Workgroup Career Developoment Women Overschie), VOS/VVCR and the institute Maaswerk/Municipal Girls’ Work Professionals. She also had meetings with e.g. the Riet Hof Centre/Agency for Women’s Empowerment, staff community centre De Kameleon, sex work social services and Basis Education. Her visit was organized by the municipality of Rotterdam, WIS (Work Centre International Solidarity) and the Azania Komitee. Arun Naicker noticed that the white women took the floor during her visit. The black women said nothing and only felt free to speak during informal discussions with her.

L: Delilah Sarmo (RADAR), Urmy Macnack(cross-cultural psychotherapist), Arun Naicker, Sidris van Sauers (RADAR), Rotterdam 2014

After stopping the Campaign Rotterdam-Durban UMTAPO maintained close ties with Rotterdam. With RADAR, an anti-discrimination organization in Rotterdam, UMTAPO created an exchange programme with anti-racism and empowerment courses in the Netherlands, South Africa and a number of European countries.

Arunthoothie (Arun) Naicker co-ordinated UMTAPO women’s work and activities for children in which the children are brought up with anti-sexist and anti-racist values. The relationship between men and women is also discussed in the literacy classes, youth educational work and other activities of the UMTAPO Centre. She supervised training courses for young black women. There women developed the necessary skills and knowledge to confidently and independently take on management tasks in society. Topics that were covered were: reporting, meeting skills, bookkeeping, public speaking, group dynamics, conflict management, communication, aids, race and gender in South Africa.

Arun Naicker (1960) grew up in Durban. Her father worked as a textile worker and her mother was a teacher. Arun Naicker worked as a pre-school teacher and was outraged about the inequality in terms of budget for the several groups (Whites, Coloureds, Indians, Africans) as determined in the Apartheid system. Later she took a course for adult education. From the very start she was involved in UMTAPO and she said that there she really became politically aware.

Arun Naicker 1993, Rotterdam with members of institute Maaswerk/Municipal Girls’ Work Professionals

Looking back on the role of women in the Black Consciousness Movement Arun Naicker spoke of a missed opportunity: ‘Despite the fact that Winnie Kgware was elected as the first woman president of the Black People’s Convention and fearless woman freedom fighters such as Vuyi Mashalaba, Sam Moodley, Oshadi Mangena, Debora Matshoba, Nomsisi Kraai, Asha Moodley, Soma Govender, and many other strong women the movement never had women in their leadership structures. This was a great opportunity lost. The BC movement needed to reinvent itself towards an intersectional perspective and not operate as separate wings of Youth and Woman while the leadership roles were dominated by powerful men within the organization. My own experience is that within the organization the great emphasis to pursue a race and class struggle negated the voice of women. Perhaps the word comrade was overestimated. There was also the fear of not pursuing a western feminist struggle. I often felt the reluctance of men and women within the BC movement to critique the organization as it would weaken the organization.

Upon reflection now I also realize that I did not speak out but pursued a struggle for the emancipation of women together with other BC women, through various programs. To mention a few Woman and Development, Women’s Leadership Courses, Economic Justice, Anti-Racism Course, Taking Steps to Challenge Patriarchy and Gender-based Violence. These programs took the form of courses, dialogues and seminars with children and adults’. 91

Shining examples

All these women fought and fight for their families, their people, restitution of land and their position as women. Heroines for humanity and mankind. They did so in their country with and without weapons and out of sheer necessity also beyond the borders of their country. The cruel oppression by the Apartheid regime, the obstruction by western white know-it-alls and the confrontation with racism in the rest of the world did not make them surrender. In spite of the major personal sacrifices they did not and do not dream of keeping their mouths shut, of not fighting anymore and of silently suffering their fate.

These women are shining examples for women in western individualized society that can exist through the exploitation of the rest of the world, in the past and today.

‘The comfortable life of bourgeois women around the world is possible because millions of exploited and racialized women maintain this comfort by making their clothes, cleaning their homes and the offices where they work, taking care of their children, and by taking care of the sexual needs of their husbands, brothers, and partners.’92

And let’s keep in mind: ‘When women’s rights are reduced to the defense of individual freedom – ‘to be free to, to have the right to…’- without questioning the content of this freedom, without questioning the genealogy of this notion in European modernity, we are entitled to wonder whether all these rights were granted because other women were not free.’93


© Marjan Boelsma, 29 October, 2021. Translation into English: HippoLingo. 

Reproduction of articles or parts of articles is authorized, provided the source is acknowledged and that passages and quotations are not placed in a different context.


[1] Pan Africanist Congress

[2] Azania Vrij, Volume 1, no 4, June/July 1975

[3] Elisabeth Landis quoted by Elisabeth Sibeko

[4] Black Consciousness Movement

[5] Oshadi Mangena in ‘Eurocentric development and the imperative of women’s emancipation in Sub-Saharan Africa’ (An Introduction to an Alternative), 1996

[6]Lesley Lawson, Werken in Zuid-Afrika, zwarte vrouwen aan het woord, feminist publishing house SARA, Amsterdam 1986. Original title Working Women. A portrait of South Africa’s black women writers. Ravan/The Sached Trust, Johannesburg 1985. Text and photography Lesley Lawson, translation by Eva Wolff

[7] Sharpeville 21 March 1960 Protests against the pass laws, PAC, the Sharpeville massacre, uprising in Apartheid South Africa, and effects – Tegen het vergeten

[8] The Bantustan or homelands policy meant that the regime divided along ethnic lines 13% of the country into 9 Bantustans for the black majority. Each one would allegedly be granted independence. The residents became against their will citizens in the territories allocated by the regime. In October 1976 Transkei was the first one to be declared independent. 44% of these residents worked in the mines and white urban areas. Transkei did not have a viable economy and consisted of large parts of infertile land. In reality the homelands were reservoirs of cheap labour and a dumping ground for non-productive black people such as the elderly, the sick and children. Transkei’s independence was not internationally recognized. The banned liberation movements PAC and ANC vigorously rejected the Bantustan policy. SASO – and the rest of the Black Consciousness Movement –  also vigorously rejected the Bantustan policy, an instrument against black political unity against the Apartheid regime

[9] Elisabeth Sibeko (PAC) at the UN World Conference in Mexico City in 1975 during the International Women’s Year, Azania Vrij, Volume 1, no 4, June/July 1975

[10] Idem  When in 1957, Dr Ntantala-Jordan was requested to contribute an article for a magazine called Africa South on ‘African women’, she chose to write about the ‘other women whom nobody ever hears about, whose story had never been told, because they are not the ‘pillars’ of their societies’. According to her, these ‘were some of the girls I had grown up with, now married and living the lives of widows, as their menfolk were away in the cities’ (1992: 164). Her second article in this magazine was entitled ‘The Widows of the Reserves’. http://www.humanities.uct.ac.za/news/tribute-late-dr-phyllis-priscilla-ntantala-jordan

[11]Ena Janse, Bijna familie, De huishoudster in het Zuid-Afrikaanse gezin, Dutch translation 2016 published by Cossee BV, Amsterdam. Original title Soos familie. Stedelike huiswerkers in Suid-Afrikaanse tekste. Published in 2015 by Protea Boekhuis, Pretoria

[12] Umtapo seminar Taking steps to challenge the oppression of women, 1993 in Durban, South Africa

[13] Umtapo seminar Taking steps to challenge the oppression of women, 1993 in Durban, South Africa

[14] Shumikazi Jako, 16 May 1982 Azania Vrij, Volume 9, no 2/3 1983

[15] South African Security

[16] Buni Sexwale was president of the South African Cultural Centre (SACCC) in Amsterdam. She was one of the speakers at the Sharpeville Commemoration in Nijmegen in 1991 Sharpeville (part 2) Solidarity with the liberation struggle in Azania/South Africa and fight against racism in the Netherlands, 1975 – 1992 – Tegen het vergeten

[17] idem

[18] Sowetan, 14/4/1992

[19] https://mg.co.za/article/2018-08-24-00-bcm-women-led-from-the-front/

[20] Speech at AALAE Women’s Network General meeting 1993. Theme African Women; Identity, Culture and Transformation

[21] Mojanku Gumbi was then AZAPO Head of Legal Affairs

[22] Sowetan, 9/11/1993

[23] The seminar was attended by PAC women (in exile) from Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Gambia, Australia, United States, Germany, England, Denmark and Switzerland. The Black Consciousness Movement was represented by two women from Botswana. The ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union), the liberation movement from Zimbabwe was represented by two participants. Rita Grijzen, of the Azania Komitee, participated as an observer. For Azania Vrij she wrote a report on which the information is based

[24] Azania Vrij, Volume 6, no 4/5 1980

[25] After the protest against the Pass Laws and the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. Sharpeville 21 March 1960 Protests against the pass laws, PAC, the Sharpeville massacre, uprising in Apartheid South Africa, and effects – Tegen het vergeten

[26] Christie Douts Qunta, Hoyi Na! Azania, poems of an African Struggle, 1979, Marimba Enterprises, Surry Hills, Australia

[27] Christine N. Qunta, Women in Southern Africa, edited by Christine Qunta, 1987, Allison and Busby Limited, New York, NY. In association with Skotaville Publishers, Johannesburg

[28] Christine Qunta, Why we are not a nation, 2016, Seriti sa Sechaba Publishers, Cape Town.

[29] In the wake of this protest the UN Special Committee against Apartheid declared 9 August International Solidarity Day with the struggle of women in Namibia and South Africa

[30] SASO: South African Students’ Organization, BPC: Black People’s Convention, NAYO: National Youth Organization

[31] These days the more accepted term for the Third World  is The South

[32] https://mg.co.za/article/2018-08-10-00-nomvo-poqokazi-booi-a-mother-of-the-struggle/

[33] Freedom fighter Nomvo Booi (1929-2016)‘I never doubted whether or not to continue the struggle’ – Against Forgetting

[34] UN Third Committee. This committee deals amongst other things with ‘questions relating to the advancement of women, the protection of children, indigenous issues, the treatment of refugees, the promotion of fundamental freedoms through the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the right to self- determination.’   https://www.un.org/en/ga/third/

[35] Sharpeville 21 March 1960 Protests against the pass laws, PAC, the Sharpeville massacre, uprising in Apartheid South Africa, and effects – Tegen het vergeten

[36] Imam Abdullah Haron died in a police cell on 27 September 1969. He had been in solitary confinement for 123 days and was subjected to daily interrogations and torture

[37] David & Elisabeth Sibeko Foundation

[38] Later APLA (Azanian People’s Liberation Army)

[39] David & Elisabeth Sibeko Foundation https://www.facebook.com/davidandelizabethsibekofoundation

[40] Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014), white South African author. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature

[41] David & Elisabeth Sibeko Foundation https://www.facebook.com/davidandelizabethsibekofoundation

[42] idem

[43] https://www.facebook.com/davidandelizabethsibekofoundation

[44]Sharpeville 21 March 1960 Protests against the pass laws, PAC, the Sharpeville massacre, uprising in Apartheid South Africa, and effects – Tegen het vergeten and Sharpeville (part 2) Solidarity with the liberation struggle in Azania/South Africa and fight against racism in the Netherlands, 1975 – 1992 – Tegen het vergeten

[45] Interview with Face of Azania, 1 November 1978

[46] https://uncensoredopinion.co.za/the-sharpeville-leader-nyakane-tsolo/

[47] idem

[48] Interview with Face of Azania, 1 November 1978

[49] idem

[50] https://uncensoredopinion.co.za/the-sharpeville-leader-nyakane-tsolo/

[51] idem

[52]Sylvia Lemmens, ‘Haar scherp in beeld, de bewogen geschiedenis van 40 Rotterdamse vrouwen’, 1994, Sylvia Lemmens, Emancipatiebureau Riet Hof

[53] Dorothy Nyembe was arrested in 1968. In 1969 she was a.o. found guilty of giving shelter to members of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison she had to serve in Barberton, Kroonstad, Potchefstroom, and Pretoria Central Prison, far away from her family in Durban. She was the longest serving female political prisoner in Apartheid South Africa in conditions often worse than for the male political prisoners

[54] Amina Desai (c. 1920 – 10 June 2009) was in prison for 5 years. In 1972 she was sentenced for promoting the objectives of the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP)

[55] During the 1950s Molapo lived in the Newclare area of Johannesburg where she was a member of the Garment Workers’ Union and became an activist for the ANC. Having attended the first conference of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), she began campaigning for the party amongst other Basutoland expatriates working in Transvaal, becoming the first woman amongst the party leadership. She also joined the Pan Africanist Congress and was elected treasurer. Ellen ‘Maposholi Molapo was a Mosotho politician. The first woman to play a prominent role in politics in Lesotho, she became its first female member of Parliament when she was appointed to the Senate in 1965. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_%27Maposholi_Molapo

[56] https://uncensoredopinion.co.za/the-sharpeville-leader-nyakane-tsolo/

[57] Evert Vermeer Stichting was an NGO affiliated with the Partij van de Arbeid (Labour Party)

[58] All quotes from 1985, interview with Azania Vrij, Volume 11, no 2 1985 and reports

[59] SASM: South Africa Students Movement

[60] BPC (Black People’s Convention)

[61] Asbestos is a carconegenic substance. In the United States and other western countries asbestos was already banned. Western companies in South Africa continued their asbestos-mining activities and asbestos processing

[62] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5pKWKHzPWU

[63] Then Prime Minister and later President John Vorster opened it in 1968

[64] https://www.facebook.com/MmagautaMolefe-Legacy-Foundation-NPC-104883291900081

[65] Conversation and email, september 2021

[66] https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/in-numbers-murder-and-rape-on-the-rise-sas-quarterly-crime-statistics-20210820

[67] Telephone conversation with Mmagauta Molefe, August 2021

[68] Later Pan Africanist Women’s Organization

[69] Sowetan, 11/4/1986

[70] https://youtu.be/-LkcMpGS22c and https://uncensoredopinion.co.za/women-forgotten-in-the-shadow-of-history-urbania-bebe-mothopeng/ The conference was organized by the UN, the OAU and the Non-Aligned Movement

[71] Sentenced in the Bethal Treason Trial, one of the longest-running trials against 18 PAC and BC leaders. It ended in 1979 with convictions for terrorism and conspiracy between 1963 and 1977. Soweto uprising 1976 One-sided international solidarity – Tegen het vergeten

[72] Save the Sharpeville Six Actions against death sentences Sharpeville 6 and Upington 14 – Tegen het vergeten

[73] idem

[74] Soweto uprising 1976 One-sided international solidarity – Tegen het vergeten

[75] Sowetan, 15/10/1986

[76] AK Hlongwane, The Lion of Azania, a biography, Skotaville Publishing, March 1921

[77] idem

[78] idem

[79] Sowetan, 27/8/1992

[80] Azania Vrij, Volume 13, no 1, 1987. Organized by the Belijdende Kring (Confessing Circle) in Kampen, an organization of the black Dutch Reformed Church in SA

[81] idem

[82] idem

[83] idem

[84] Sharpeville (part 2) Solidarity with the liberation struggle in Azania/South Africa and fight against racism in the Netherlands, 1975 – 1992 – Tegen het vergeten

[85] In Mexico 1975, Copenhagen 1980, Nairobi 1985

[86] Jane Maphefo Oshadi Mangena, Eurocentric development and the imperative of women’s emancipation in Sub-Saharan Africa (An introduction to an alternative), De Meern, 1996

[87] Interview with Dr Oshadi Mangena, on 16 June 1976, who witnessed first-hand the Soweto Uprising that changed the socio-political landscape of South Africa. It was a day when she, along with other women, were incarcerated by Apartheid police and endured the harrowing cries of those who were tortured and died at the hands of their captors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yI40u3ROJ8

[88] BCMA: Black Consciousness Movement of Azania

[89] Theatre Council of Natal

[90] https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/ragn20/current

[91] Email correspondence 11/12 August 2021

[92] Francoise Vergès, A decolonial feminism, London Pluto Press, 2021

[93] idem