Passionate about human rights

2008-09-18 00:00

WHAT is your connection with The Witness and to Pietermaritzburg?

I came to Pietermaritzburg 33 years ago and have been an avid Witness reader ever since.

Where were you born, where did you grow up and where were you educated?

I was born, grew up, and educated in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia).

How do you spend your days?

In 2001 I retired from formal employment and was asked to help in the Tatham Art Gallery shop over the Christmas season. I agreed and I’m still there meeting a range of fascinating people who produce exceptional craft.

Do you write letters to other newspapers? Why do you choose The Witness?

I only write letters to The

Witness, largely because it has become part of my life, it has a local focus and gives me a sense of community.

How do you receive your news about South African current affairs and why do you follow it?

By watching TV news, reading the Mail & Guardian and New Internationalist. I strongly believe citizens have a duty to be informed about what is happening locally and nationally. As members of the Black Sash, during the darkest days of apartheid, we women kept ourselves and others informed by holding protest stands, public meetings, and writing letters to newspapers, including The Witness, so that people could not say “we did not know”.

Do you have other passions or interests?

I am passionate about human rights, particularly those of women. My other interests are reading, music, the environment, healthy lifestyles, local food and indigenous vegetables. I love cooking and spend a lot of time in my garden and sharing good food with friends.

What do you think is the value of letter writing? What inspires you to write letters?

The Witness gives a wide variety of people a platform to air their views. This ability to openly express differing views is essential in a democracy. I am inspired to write when something touches or angers me.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing South Africa today?

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the crisis of poverty, which will be exacerbated by the rising costs of fuel and food. Secondly, the new ANC leadership appears to have little regard for the rule of law and, as a result, our judicial system and the Constitution might well become subject to political control. I also think that corruption, the loss of scarce skills due to emigration, the high levels of crime and anarchy on the roads are serious challenges.

What is your age and marital status?

I am 68 and live with a partner, three cats and a beautiful brown dachshund.

What do you believe has been your best letter?

Possibly one written in re-sponse to someone calling for public hanging where I pointed out that apart from the lack of logic involved (do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?), it is totally immoral for any society, particularly one already racked with horror and unnecessary cruelty, to encourage the idea that violence should be met with even more violence.

Do you get any feedback as a result of your letters?

I used to get abusive and threatening phone calls, particularly about letters opposing apartheid and the death penalty. Some letters have elicited replies in The Witness and I still meet new people who say: “Oh, you are Mary, I read your letters in The Witness.”

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