Obit – Chabaku ‘lived gender equality’

2012-05-15 09:33

ANC veteran and prominent gender activist Reverend Motlalepula Chabaku will be remembered as a proud feminist who “lived gender equality”.

Chabaku (78) died in her sleep on Friday at her house in Rockville, Soweto.

President Jacob Zuma extended condolences to Chabaku’s family, praising her as the “last surviving member of the resilient group of activists” that led a 1956 women’s march against apartheid pass laws.

“Ms Chabaku was a deeply spiritual person who carried an abiding sense of community and compassion for all people, especially women, the poor and the downtrodden. We thank her for dedicating all her life to the liberation of our people and acknowledge the role she played in the nation’s reconstruction and development. We will always remember fondly the ethic of hard work that she instilled on many who worked with her”, said Zuma.

Her niece, Lorraine Miya-Chabaku, said Chabaku was found dead in bed by her nephew.

“She was the pillar of strength and always put other people first, forgetting about herself”, said Miya-Chabaku. Chabaku had been sick since last weekend and was admitted to a hospital and discharged on Tuesday last week.

She was the first Speaker of the Free State Legislature after the attainment of democracy, moved on to represent the province on the National Council of Provinces in Parliament and later a member of the Gauteng provincial legislature.

She retired in 2009 having been the only South African to have served two legislatures in different provinces.

Lindiwe Maseko, Speaker of the Gauteng provincial legislature, described Chabaku as “a good listener” who “spoke her mind”.

“You wouldn’t misbehave in front of her. She adhered to the rules of the ANC and was very committed to the upliftment of communities.”

Even after the end of her MPL term in Gauteng, Chabaku still attended legislature sessions and participated in discussions, for free.

Former Free State legislature colleagues described her as “a forceful fighter for gender quality”.

Mxolisi Dukwana, former MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs, said Chabaku genderised everything.

“When she was talking about history in the legislature, she would always say that is his-story but there is also sis-story,” he said.

Sekhopi Malebo, former Free State MEC for public works and transport, said Chabaku was offended when people called her mamoruti (a female version of a priest).

“She regarded it as sexist and was quick to remind people that she was a moruti and should be addressed as one,” he said.

Malebo said Chabaku lived gender equity and insisted even girl children had the right to carry their family name.

She joined the ANC in 1949 at the age of 15 and participated in its youth and women structures.

A staunch Christian, she refused to be tied to a single denomination.

She served the Anglican and Methodist churches in South Africa as well as the United Methodist and Concord Presbyterian in America.

At the time of her death, she was a member of the ANC Veterans League. She is survived by her adopted daughter, Mamolemo Chabaku.

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