ANC stalwart MaBertha dies

2010-11-19 13:30

ANC veteran Bertha Gxowa died in Johannesburg today.

She died at the age of 76 from complications after an operation in Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg, the ANC said.

“MaBertha”, as she was affectionately known, was born on November 28 1934 and joined the ANC as a teenager in 1951.

“She endured hardship at the hands of the apartheid regime, which included house arrests, detentions and imprisonment, because of her strong convictions and beliefs in the freedom of her people,” said ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu.

In 1994, she became part of the new democracy’s parliament and served in various portfolio committees until her death.

“During the course of struggle, MaBertha took up women’s issues, particularly the struggle for women’s emancipation, having crisscrossed the country to set up and build ANC Women’s League structures,” said Mthembu.

Several ANC leaders, including secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, national chairwoman Baleka Mbete and national executive committee member Winnie Madikizela-Mandela visited her in hospital before her death.

“At this dark hour of need, we send condolences to the Gxowa family. May her soul rest in peace,” said Mthembu.

MaBertha leaves behind three daughters.

Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane expressed shock and sadness at her death, and hailed her as one of the national organisers of the historic women’s anti-pass march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956.

“We mourn her loss, and offer our deepest condolences and solidarity to her family and many friends at this difficult time,” said Mokonyane.

Mokonyane said she was also the founder of Malibongwe, a non-government, non-profit making organisation focusing on the upliftment of women in South Africa.

“Mme Gxowa dedicated her entire life to the struggle and to the upliftment of women in South Africa, and in particular the poorest of the poor. There is little doubt she is leaving a huge void behind,” said Mokonyane.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) also expressed sadness at her death, saying she had made a “stunning contribution” to the ANC.

“Comrade Bertha is a heroine of our struggle to defeat the patriarchal and class exploitation as underpinned by the barbaric and immoral system of capitalism,” Numsa said.

“Numsa lowers its red banners in honour of this gallant fighter.”

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