7 March 2014
I bring you heartfelt gratitude from the ANCWL and appreciate you being here with us today in Rustenburg on the eve of International Women`s day when we are set to launch our election campaign.
We are approaching a very important time in our democracy the elections are a few weeks away and we will continue to need your support as we approach this election period. We cannot forget the women who never saw democracy and never felt the joy and emancipation of casting their democratic vote. Yet, they dedicated their lives to this dream that we can now call a reality today.
This election is about the future but before we look forward we need to see where we come from and this is why it is so imperative that we honour the heroines of the past.
Tonight I have the absolute honour of bestowing upon our ANCWL heroines the highest accolade in the ANC as we celebrate the contributions of Mme Ruth Mompati and Gertude Shope.
Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe is the highest honour awarded by the ANC to those who have made an outstanding contribution and sacrifice to the liberation struggle. Isithwalandwe, literally translated, means "the one who wears the plumes of the rare bird" and was traditionally bestowed only on the bravest warriors of the people, on those who distinguished themselves in the eyes of all the people for exceptional qualities of leadership and heroism.
Chief Albert Luthuli, Dr Yusuf Dadoo and Father Trevor Huddleston were the first leaders to received Isithwalandwe / Seaparankoe, at the Congress of the People in 1955. The most recent recipient, in 2008, was Chris Hani.
This goes to show the calibre of comrades who are bestowed with this great honour.
It is in this light that it is only fitting that the strong progressive women leaders we are honouring here tonight are bestowed with the great honour.
The first being mam Ruth Mompati
She like many great people came from humble beginning in Vryburg in, Western Transvaal. She was an educated women who obtained a Primary School Teaching Diploma. While teaching, Mme Mompati joined the North West District Teachers` Union. In the late 1940s, she established contact with the local branch of the African National Congress in Mafikeng. It was only after she married that she became a member of the ANC, as her husband, Peter Matsawane was already a member of the ANC.
Mme Mompati was the type of women who was constantly trying to better herself, she went to a private school to further her studies with a course in shorthand and typing which then enabled her to get an administrative position at the Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo law firm - the first black law firm in Johannesburg.
During this time she became as active member of the ANC Women`s League and assisted in the launching of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) in 1954 and was instrumental in organising its anti-pass protest on 09 August 1956.
During the State of Emergency in 1960, she was instructed to the late ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu to go underground. A week after the State of Emergency, she was arrested but thankfully released three days later.
In 1962, Mme Mompati left South Africa and worked for the ANC in Tanzania. While working for the ANC in Tanzania, she was elected a member of the ANC National Executive Committee and formed part of the President`s Office of the ANC.
Between 1981 and 1982, Mme Mompati served as the Chief Representative of the ANC in the United Kingdom. When the ANC leadership opened talks with the apartheid regime under the Nationalist Party government of FW de Klerk, Mme Mompati was part of the ANC delegation at the talks in 1990. In 1994, Mme Mompati was elected as an ANC Member of Parliament, followed by a diplomatic posting to Switzerland in 1996 as an Ambassador. Upon her return from Switzerland, she became Mayor of Vryburg in the North West Province.
With a list of accolades such as this it is only befitting a true heroine such as mme Mompati to receive Isithwalandwe
Another great woman who I am privileged to honour here tonightis a name that needs no introduction in the ANCWL. Mme Gertrude Shope was born in Johannesburg, but grew up in Zimbabwe. She was also trained as a teacher, (jokes: it would seem so many of our heroines were teachers and it says a lot about the profession)
When she was 29 years old, she decided to join the African National Congress (ANC), and soon afterwards left teaching as part of the campaign to boycott Bantu Education. She moved onto the Coronation Hospital and later began to work with empowering women by training them in crafts and as well as with youth rehabilitation.
Mme Shope was dedicated to a life of selfless service and From 1958 to 1966 Shope was the chairperson of the Central Western Jabavu Branch of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW). In the late 1960s she was provincial secretary for the FEDSAW.
Shope got to know Bram Fischer very well, and in 1966 the ANC convinced her to leave South Africa and join her husband, Mark Shope, in exile. While in exile, Gertrude and her husband were moved around a lot as representatives of the ANC. They lived in Prague, Botswana, Tanzania, Czechoslovakia, Zambia and Nigeria. This is a very difficult life not being able to call any place home but it was her desire to see South Africa freed that kept her going.
While in exile, from 1970-1971, Shope was secretary to the head of the ANC`s Woman`s Section, Florence Mophosho. Together these two women started the publication of Voice of the Women.
Shope later became the ANC`s chief representative in Lusaka and in 1981 was promoted to head of the Women`s Section, and she became a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC in 1985. As head, she led the Women`s Section to the End of the Decade Conference in Nairobi in 1985, and was secretary of the ANC mission to Nigeria. She held this position until 1991.
In 1991 Shope was elected president of the ANC`s Women`s League, a position she held until 1993. She worked together with Albertina Sisulu in convening the ANC`s Internal Leadership Corps Task Force from 1990-1991.
In 1994 Shope became a member of parliament in the Government of National Unity. I still consider Shope as a pioneer of the re-emergence of the ANCWL and as the league we owe much to this remarkable and strong women.
It is with great honour that we are able to award this honour to mme Shope here this evening on the eve of international women`s day.
Both of the women we are celebrating can most definitely qualify as women of truly international stature. They have lived throughout the world serving the ANC in a number of capacities and can really be an example to all of us as to what selfless sacrifice is truly about.
It is through these bold, brave and strong willed women leaders that we have made so much progress as the ANC in gender equality and women`s emancipation.
Especially in the 20 years since democracy we have made significant progress towards the achievement of a better life for all women.
To put it as our President did in his State of the Nation address last month.
"We have a good story to tell"
Consecutive ANC governments in the past 20 years have worked hard to empower and prioritise women and women`s development.
As women we owe much to the late tata Madiba, who was influenced greatly by the women of his generation whom we are honouring tonight. Due to their influence, he was an advocate of women`s rights and set the tone for our young democracy. He acknowledged not only the plight of women but also the contribution they have made to all spheres of society.
To quote our former President:
"As a tribute to the legions of women who navigated the path of fighting for justice before us, we ought to imprint in the supreme law of the land, firm principles upholding the rights of women. The women themselves and the whole of society, must make this a prime responsibility… Together, we have it in our power to change South Africa for the better."
And with that we saw the progressive and gender sensitive laws that empower us as womentoday.
Due in most part to the women of the ANC, the ANC created a constitution for this country, which gave South African women one of the most comprehensive set of rights in the world including the right to "bodily and psychological integrity", the right to "make decisions concerning reproduction" and to "security in and control over their body." It also protected women from discrimination, rape and domestic violence.
The 2014 election will be about the steps that we need to take as a nation to move South Africa more especially South African women forward. It is about the work we still need to do tackle the triple challenges affecting women of unemployment, poverty and inequality which still sadly persist today despite the immense progress we have made. The ANCWL are confident the plans outlined in the ANC election manifesto will greatly improve the plight of women even further.
We have been led thus far by the brilliant likes of mme Ruth Mompati and Gertrude Shope who we thank and honour here this evening. We need to take the lessons learnt by these great individuals and built on them as we continue to tackle inequality and take South Africa forward.
I thank you.