Celebrating four women during this year's 'women's month'

2014-08-14 22:17

As a South African today the one dominant question that interrogates me is why are we South Africans, so cowardly, so devoid of any vision of building a society firmly anchored on justice , of why we have become so apathetic, desensitised in fact, to the conditions of the majority of South Africans 20 years after 1994?

We are like somnambulists walking towards a tsunami.

I am troubled by the question namely,what will it take to wake us up from that slumber and to stop the rot of greed and corruption, of incompetence and cadre deployment,of the suffering of millions of South Africans from unemployment and poverty. Add to that, I am wont to ask, what will it take to prevent the dying of many of the most vulnerable members of our society, the elderly, the women and our children at the hands of rapists and gun totting criminals. And, yes how can we ease the pangs of hunger that are experienced by millions of our badly sheltered and unsheltered South Africans?

What went wrong as we crossed the bridge from a deep and divided past towards the promised land? Who is responsible for shredding the promissory note embodied in the Bill of Rights to our Constitution?

Ironically, we are, after all, one, if not the, most unequal societies in the world and the Constitution is nothing but a fig leaf.

These questions are not random or abstract thoughts but actually flowers whose seeds were sown by four women into my DNA.

So as we celebrate 'women's month' I must remember a courageous White woman, Ruth First, a marxist, who was assassinated by the apartheid government on 17 August 1982 by a parcel bomb in Mozambique.

It was a year that I started my legal career. It was shortly after I qualified as a lawyer that I met the late Professor Fathima Meer as she was setting up the first institution of liberation through education, namely Phambili High which was located in Cross Street, Durban opposite Durban Girls High School in Dartnel Crescent.

It was also a year, actually 3 October 1982, that an unlettered woman who taught me that the pen was indeed mightier than the sword,my mother Khatija, died. Together with my sister Hawa Gori about whom I shall mention later, the greatest and most potent weapon she gave me was a fountain pen,reminding me that the first injunction in the Quran was "read" not pray.

I never knew who Ruth First was until a newscaster on the then mouthpiece of the apartheid government,Springbok Radio, announced in celebratory fanfare that she had been blown up by a parcel bomb, I think, in Maputo in Mozambique.

Like Irvin Jim, Numsa General Secretary, who incidentally delivered the Ruth First Lecture, at Wits University on 14 August 2014 I widen the scope and reach of these questions to the broader South African society. He asked what will it take for us all to open our eyes and see that we are on the precipice, on the edge of a cliff that we have to do something now and radical to resolve the question of racial, national and class oppression and exploitation which has intensified in South Africa since 1994?

It was my late sister Hawa Gori Jazbhay who passed away in the prime of my youth on 6 June 1968 who gave me the first sip from the fountain of freedom by challenging me to focus on liberating myself from poverty,not through the barrel of the gun but through education.

Through celebrating and paying homage to my mother, my sister , Professor Fathima Meer and, yes, Ruth First I honour all the unknown heroines, women of selfless courage who provide the foundational stones in our lives.

It may be a worn out cliche but behind every successful man was and still remains, a woman whom we should honour and cherish.

Saber Ahmed Jazbhay


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