Archives 29 October 2021

Winnie Mandela

5 famous South African women

We truly value our South African heroines and we want to present to you 5 of our most famous women who have marked our recent history.

Phumzile Mlambo-Nqcuka

Phumzile Mlambo-Nqcuka is the Executive Director of the UN Women and the United Nations under Secretary-General. She has worked in both government and private sector and was actively involved in the struggle to abolish apartheid. Ms. Mlambo-Nqcuka has served as Deputy President of South Africa from 2005 to 2008. She has overseen programmes which combat poverty and bring about economic empowerment for women. She is devoted to women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Lilian Masediba Ngoyi

Lilian Masediba Ngoyi was born into a poor family Pretoria in 1911 and died in 1980. She was a textile worker and mother of three. She became one of the leading anti-apartheid activists eventually becoming the Secretary General of the ANC (African National Congress) Woman’s League. As National Chairmen of FEDSAW and the first woman elected into office within the main body of the ANC. She led members of FEDSAW to the union buildings on 9th August 1956. She was highly involved in bringing the world’s attention towards the anti-apartheid movement.

Miriam Makeba

Zansi Miriam Makeba was born in on 4 march 1932 in prospect township near Johannesburg in South Africa. She died in 2008 at the age of 76. Known around the world as mama Afrika, she was one of the world’s most prominent black African performers of the 20th century. She settled in the United states in 1959 and began her career singing Xhosa and Zulu songs mostly highly critical towards the Apartheid regime. In 1960 she was denied entry into South Africa and lived in exile for three decades continuing to tour and perform across Africa and Europe.

Ruth First

Heloise Ruth First was born on 4 May 1925 in Johannesburg South Africa. First was an activist, scholar and journalist and was extremely vocal against South Africa’s oppressive system called apartheid. First was involved in founding the Congress of the Democrats. First worked on drafting the renowned Freedom Charter which called for non-racial social democracy in South Africa. First was assassinated by letter bomb in 1982 by agents of the Apartheid regime.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela was born on September 26 1936 in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Madikizela-Mandela is considered to be the mother of the nation of South Africa. She was the second wife to Nelson Mandela and was a social worker and activist against the oppressive apartheid regime. She became known as a heroine of the anti-apartheid movement and in 1994 was elected Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and technology. Madikizela-Mandela was awarded the Silver Order of Luthuli for her contributions to the struggle for liberation during Apartheid. More details on Winnie Mandela in our biography.

Robert Sabukwe

Founder of the Pan African congress and one of the towering pillars of black nationalism in South Africa, Mangaliso Robert Sabukwe was a man of brilliant intellect. While advocating for the liberation of African people, he was often accused by some of his detractors as being an anti-white racist. But in fact he had a strong commitment to non-racialism once apartheid had been destroyed.

Born of poor Xhosa parents in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in 1924, Robert was educated in mission schools and later found opportunity to attend Fort Hare University. There he showed a keen interest in politics and became the secretary-general of the ANC Youth League. Breaking away from the African National Congress, he founded the Pan-Africanist Congress in 1959 and became a leader in the Pan-African movement (PAC).

Under Robert Sobukwe the PAC organised mass demonstrations against the pass laws of the apartheid system (laws that forced Blacks to carry identity cards to certify their right to be in areas reserved for whites). One of these demonstrations was on the day of the infamous Sharpeville shootings (21 March 1960) and Robert was arrested on charges of incitement in Soweto. He was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and upon release he was re-arrested immediately and held a further 6 years in detention on Robben Island under a special amendment to the Suppression of Communism Act (later known as the “Sobukwe Clause”) which allowed the government to detain indefinitely without trial anyone who, having completed a prison sentence, was deemed by the minister of justice to be a danger to the state. In prison he studied law by correspondence and earned a degree.

In 1969 Sobukwe was allowed to settle in the town of Kimberly but was prohibited from speaking in public and from participating in any group activity. He could not leave the Kimberly area, but he practiced law until his death from cancer in 1978.

A wonderful museum is dedicated to him in his hometown of Graaf-Reinet. Off the beaten track, African Heart Travel takes you there on a one-of-a-kind road trip in South Africa.