'A torchbearer of our post-apartheid Parliament': Frene Ginwala hailed, mourned

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Frene Ginwala.
Frene Ginwala.
Gallo Images / City Press / Lucky Nxumalo
  • The first Speaker of the National Assembly in a democratic South Africa, Frene Ginwala, has died.
  • Ginwala died on Thursday, at the age of 90, following a stroke two weeks ago.
  • She has been remembered as a torchbearer of South Africa’s post-apartheid Parliament.

South Africa has lost one of the foremost iconic leaders of its liberation struggle.

Described as one of the pre-eminent midwives to the nation’s constitutional democracy, Parliament has mourned the passing of its founding Speaker, in a democratic South Africa, Frene Ginwala.

Ginwala died on Thursday, at the age of 90, following a stroke two weeks ago.

Parliament’s spokesperson Moloto Mothapo described her as being among the most revered, courageous, and selfless revolutionaries.

"As a torchbearer of our post-apartheid Parliament, Dr Ginwala was exceptional and instrumental in the formation of one of the most acclaimed democracies and one of the best constitutions in the world," he said.

Ginwala was born on 25 April 1932 in Johannesburg in what was then the province of the Transvaal.

"Her pursuit for social justice and equality began at a very early age. Even as a child, Dr Ginwala was conscious of the policies of colonial oppression and racial discrimination which, amongst others, denied children of her colour from attending certain racially exclusive schools," Mothapo said.

"This did not sit well with her, and with the innocence of a child and boldness, confronted a principal of a whites-only school, demanding to know why she couldn't be admitted into his school."

READ | Ramaphosa pays tribute to 'formidable patriot and leader of our nation', Frene Ginwala

Ginwala had defied all the odds and limitations society had imposed on young girls, he added.

"Knowing well that the struggle for freedom and against injustice also required the pursuit and advancement of knowledge, she left the country to pursue her studies in Bachelor of Laws at the University of London.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: Deputy President Thabo Mb
Frene Ginwala, left, pictured with Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Graca Machel.

"She would later complete her Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Oxford before returning to South Africa in the 1950s to carry on with the liberation struggle programmes and activities of the Congress Movement," he said.

Between 1994 and 2004, Ginwala served South Africa as the first Speaker of the National Assembly as the country ushered in a democratic dispensation.

"It was during her tenure that saw Parliament adopting new democratic Constitution, pass a raft of progressive and transformative pieces of legislation to shape the future of the young democracy," Mothapo said.

In 2005, Ginwala was awarded the Order of Luthuli in Silver for her "excellent contribution to the struggle against gender oppression and her tireless contribution to the struggle for a non-sexist, non-racial, just and democratic society".

Parliament's presiding officers, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo, have extended their condolences to Ginwala's family, friends and comrades.

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