French to honour Dulcie

2017-05-16 10:23
A delegation of French members of Parliament visited Athlone last week to strengthen relations between the two countries as well as commemorate the memory of the late anti-apartheid activist Dulcie September.

A delegation of French members of Parliament visited Athlone last week to strengthen relations between the two countries as well as commemorate the memory of the late anti-apartheid activist Dulcie September. (Earl Haupt)

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The name Dulcie September is synonymous with the fight for liberation from the oppressive apartheid regime.

The activist, who was gunned down in Paris in 1988, is a well-celebrated figure here, in France and throughout Europe.

In the lead up to the 30th anniversary of September’s death next year, a delegation of French parliamentarians have visited Athlone to pay tribute to the struggle icon.

The principal of Athlone High School, which September attended before she went to teacher’s training college, says the visit reinforced an agreement put in place a decade ago.

“We have had a project going on with them since 2007 where they have visited the school and we have reciprocated by visiting them in France. This is all to celebrate the life of September and what she meant to the struggle in South Africa as a member of the ANC as well as a member of the Athlone community. By strengthening the ties, we are hoping to create further ties between the school and France,” says Howard Mackrill.

The three senators, all from different parts of France, visited various areas in Athlone, including the high school and the Dulcie September Civic Centre.

Michelle Demessine, chairperson of the friendship group between France and South Africa and senator of the north of France district, was visibly moved by the visit.

She met September during the latter’s ill-fated stay in France in the 1980s.

“I met her in the ’80s when she was a representative for the ANC in France and she was very involved in the women and feminist movements that I was involved in at the time.

“She was organising solidarity with the South African people, which was fighting for its freedom at the time,” says Demessine.
Mackrill adds that the partnership is strengthening in terms of exposing the youth to other cultures.

“We are commemorating the 30th anniversary of September’s death next year. We are possibly taking the play Cold case: Revisiting Dulcie September, which is being done by Denise Newman. She is also a former learner of the school.

“We are taking that over and hopefully in the future we will be able to have more projects where youngsters can interact – even video interactions between the two schools,” adds Mackrill.

Of the play, Newman says it is important that the stories of significant historical figures should be told. The onus is on the elders to share their legacy.

“We live in an area where there are many heroes whom we don’t recognise and I think that young people don’t understand the history that we have come through.

“It is our duty, us the elders, to keep the memory of people alive and September was one of many people whom I still want to tell the story of, but she was the first, because it is such a dramatic story,” says Newman.

Demessine speaks fondly of September, whom she housed for a few days when the two met in the north of France.

“This is a moving moment for us, not only for me personally, but also for my colleagues who are here. We want to deepen our relationship with South Africa and our colleagues in South Africa.

“It is a very moving moment for me today, sitting here with you around this table and that is thanks to September and I am very grateful for that,” says Demessine.

She adds that September was extremely simple but very strong and had charisma.

“I met her personally several times in my region in northern France. I put her up at my home and she spent a few nights on my sofa. I am very proud to be here with you to pay tribute to her. I am very proud that there is a high school that wears her name and that her memory lives on.”
Rashid Adams, councillor for ward 49, has also acknowledged the significance of the partnership after welcoming the delegation to the municipal offices.

“When one looks to our history books, one finds that a lot of emphasis is placed on September. There are roads named after her in France and other facilities in Europe which are named after her. The legacy of this woman needs to be re-established in Cape Town, because a number of our young people don’t know who September was,” says Adams.

Suzette Little, former ward 49 councillor, now Mayco member (North), has applauded the delegation for continuing to keep the memory of September alive in Europe and locally.

“Thank you to the principal for maintaining the history. Every community must have a person that maintains the history. Athlone has become a very special place for me, having been the councillor of the area. It has a very special place in my heart. I live in Athlone. I was part of the 1976 uprising, as many of us were.

“The part of our history that is extremely concerning for us is that it is not told properly. I understand that history is written by the conqueror and that it is sometimes a skewed history.”

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