Obituary : UDF stalwart Gladys Mhlanga

2014-05-14 00:00

A STALWART of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and a leading figure in Midlands women’s organisations, Gladys Mhlanga of Slang­spruit, was buried this weekend.

Mhlanga, who was in her late 70s, died after a long illness.

Former Msunduzi councillor and ANC activist Sibongile Mkhize described Mhlanga as an unsung hero and said it was sad that the stories of the stalwarts like Mhlanga had not been recorded.

Local struggle veteran Nana Mnandi recalled that Mhlanga joined the local branch of the Natal Organisation of Women in the 1980s. She was brought along by fellow activist Gladys Manzi.

“We got to learn that these women received their political education in the 1960s through the then unbanned ANC and the South African Council of Trade Unions (Sactu).

“Gladys Manzi was the more outspoken and the leader but Gogo Mhlanga was the quiet worker in the background. What struck me about them was their level of commitment; they made many personal sacrifices for the struggle,” Mnandi said.

She added that Mhlanga was instrumental in keeping UDF activities alive in the Slangspruit area and recruiting members to join organisations linked to the Front.

Later she became active in Midlands Women’s Group and joined the ANC Women’s League after the organisation was unbanned.

Mnandi recalled that Mhlanga was also close to the Mabhida family and helped them in whatever way she could. However, she said the depth of her selflessness was in the fact that she started taking care of orphans in the area long before it became fashionable. “Gogo Mhlanga had no children of her own and she started a creche, that was open to everybody.

“Children who lost their parents ended up staying with her and she raised all of them. Her caring for the community was part of her activism,” Mnandi said.

Happy Blose, the deputy chief whip at the KZN Legislature who worked with Mhlanga, said there was a sense of sadness at her death, because she had not been honoured for her contribution during her lifetime.

Blose agreed with Mkhize that there was a need to record the stories of the quiet revolutionaries in the Midlands who during the apartheid era, and at great personal sacrifice, kept the struggle for freedom going.

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