Frene Ginwala was unhappy with 'degeneration' in ANC leadership, family reveals at memorial

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Frene Ginwala was the first speaker of Parliament in democratic South Africa.
Frene Ginwala was the first speaker of Parliament in democratic South Africa.
PHOTO: Lucky Nxumalo, Gallo Images/City Press
  • Frene Ginwala's nephew said she was unhappy with the degeneration in the leadership of the ANC.
  • He was speaking at her memorial at the Johannesburg City Hall on Tuesday.
  • He said Ginwala was also sad that the degeneration had permeated the leadership of public and private entities.

The family of Frene Ginwala has said she was unhappy with the "degeneration" in the ANC leadership.

This was revealed on Tuesday at the end of a memorial service for Ginwala, who died at the age of 90 at her home in Johannesburg on 12 January.

Speaking after President Cyril Ramaphosa, Ginwala's nephew, Zavareh Rustomjee, gave an account of what it was like living with his aunt as a schoolboy. He said she was kind but firm and agreed with other speakers' accounts of Ginwala being a perfectionist.

ALSO READ | 'We lost a lioness of our struggle': Frene Ginwala hailed as a 'rock' at memorial service

"She mellowed in old age, but she was fiercely unhappy and critical of the degeneration in the leadership of our movement, in the leadership of public and private entities and in the destruction of institutions that were built through great sacrifice and hard work," Rustomjee said.

"She also expressed considerable sorrow and regret at the extent to which this has permeated numerous layers of institutions and society," he said, referring primarily to state capture.

He added:

Yet, despite this, on seeing the green shoots of the reversal of this destruction, she expressed a hope that the next generation will take up the baton, live up to the original ideals and rebuild.

Ginwala served as the first speaker of the National Assembly in democratic South Africa from 1994 to 2004. She was best known as an activist and worked mainly to promote women's rights.

In his speech, Ramaphosa said to lead lives of integrity was to uphold Ginwala's legacy of "good thoughts, words and deeds".

"In her role as the first speaker, she had the greatest and most enduring impact on the young democracy – over a decade, she forged new institutions that represent the people of South Africa. She forged an institution that stands at the centre of our democracy with her warmth," added Ramaphosa.

He said Ginwala was always mindful of her responsibility to serve the country's people and do all to advance their cause.

"She lived, fought and strived selflessly, honestly and courageously – driven by a deep love of humanity and especially the people of South Africa. She stood for a united South Africa."

In her tribute to Ginwala, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula spoke directly to the president about the inclusivity of the ANC.

OBITUARY | Frene Ginwala: Lawyer, activist, journalist... and reluctant Speaker of Parliament

"Mr President, having noted, as speaker, that as we come out of the (55th national ANC) conference, the non-racialism of our leadership has gone down. We [including Ginwala] fought very hard to ensure the ANC has leadership which is non-racial. What needs to be said is that the majority of men [who were] banned and who were driven into the underground depended largely on the organisational skills of women activists to keep the party going."

Mapisa-Nqakula referenced Ginwala's role in getting leaders like OR Tambo into exile, a role which earned her the title "the best travel agent in the world" by Ramaphosa.

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