Children’s rights champion dies

2014-10-29 00:00

A TRAILBLAZER and an activist for children’s rights — that’s how Penny Haswell was described following the news of her death yesterday.

Haswell (68), the wife of former Msunduzi municipal manager Rob Haswell, had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease earlier this year. She died at her home in Scottsville on Monday night.

Her distraught husband yesterday described her as being passionate about children. She had even defied apartheid racial segregations laws to admit children of all races into her pre-school.

“She ran Lindiwe Edu-Care for 31 years and thousands of children of all races passed through the school,” he said.

Her friend of more than 25 years, Yvonne Spain, said Haswell had been an inspiration to many, especially in the way she approached the end of her life.

“On Sunday she said that if anyone had to get motor neurone disease, she was glad it was her because of the support she had from family and friends, and that after all, she had lived a happy and fulfilled life,” she said.

Spain said Haswell’s Lindiwe pre-school was a non-racial place of learning long before the Constitution was written.

“Haswell had given apartheid authorities their marching orders when they visited the school in the late ’80s,” she continued.

She said Haswell’s commitment to human and children’s rights would be missed by the many organisations she was involved in. These included the street children’s project Thandanani, SOS Children’s Village, LifeLine and the Black Sash.

Phumelela Ntombela-Nzimande, a gender activist and former deputy director in the Department of Communications and the wife of the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimade, was distraught on hearing the news.

She credited Haswell for the success of her three children who attended Lindiwe and are now an accountant, an actuary and a pilot.

“I just hope that the municipality will name something after Penny so she can be remembered,” Ntombela-Nzimande said.

Haswell got the La Leche League going in Pietermaritzburg. This was an organisation that promoted breast-feeding and she helped many young women adapt to motherhood.

She was the first to join the ANC after the organisation was unbanned and this was while her husband was a member of the Democratic Party.

Haswell leaves her husband, seven children and a host of grandchildren. Her memorial service will be held on Saturday at 9 am at St Matthew’s Church in Hayfields.

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