November 17, 2018

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FS Honours Anti-Dompas Activists

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Honouring the veterans … Human settlements Olly Mlamleli says government will build homes for Annie Clorence Peters and Catherine “Katrine” Louw’s grandchildren

Honouring the veterans … Human settlements Olly Mlamleli says government will build homes for Annie Clorence Peters and Catherine “Katrine” Louw’s grandchildren

As 1956 Women’s March organiser visits province

The Free State government will honour the two women activists from the province who helped organise the famous 1956 Women’s March by building houses for their grandchildren, human settlement MEC Olly Mlamleli said this week.

News of plans to honour the activists, who have since died, came as it was announced this week that the only surviving member of the quartet of women that gallantly led the march, Sophie William De Bruyn will be visiting the Free State next week as part of activities to honour Women’s Month.

Mlamleli, who is also deputy chairperson provincial ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), said while the government was yet to determine what kind of housing the grandchildren of — Annie Clorence Peters and Catherine “Katrine” Louw — might require, it was “committed to building” them houses as a way of paying homage to their illustrious grandmothers.

Peters, who was 87 years old when she died in 2007 and Louw, who was 85 when she passed on in 1968, were both from the Bloemfontein township of Heidedal.

The two were part of a network of activists that helped rally women from every corner of South Africa to take part in the march.

The two, who themselves also took part in the march to the Union Buildings, helped mobilise women form the then Orange Free State to take part in the historic anti-pass law protest.

Their grandchildren are still living in the township that is located to the southeast of Bloemfontein and was during apartheid reserved for coloureds.

The grandchildren of Peters still live in the little, old and rundown two-roomed house that their granny lived in.

“We have learned that these families need houses,” Mlamleli said on Tuesday. “As MEC of human settlement and traditional affairs, I commit that we will build houses for these families. There are procedures that we need to follow but we promise to build the houses.”

Mlamleli — who said it was too early to say when construction of the houses might begin because government engineers still need to assess what kind of housing was needed – indicated the activist’s grandchildren were likely to be built similar houses as those built for anti-apartheid struggle veterans.

The houses built for veterans are much bigger than the so-called RDP houses built for the poor by the government under its reconstruction and development programme and from whose acronym they take their name.

The veterans’ houses have three bedrooms, a shower and bathtub. They are tiled, have roof ceiling and are fitted with built-in cupboards.

Mlamleli said it was only befitting that the Free State remembers and honours the two women for the exemplary way in which they did not allow the brutality of the apartheid regime to scare them from doing their bit to ensure the anti-pass march was a success.

She was speaking during a press conference called by Free State-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Angel Foundation to brief the media on De Bruyn’s visit to the province scheduled to take place from August 28 to 29.

The foundation that assists youths from poor or disadvantaged homes with funding to pursue their interests in sport, arts, education, business and other areas is organising De Bruyn’s visit to commemorate Women’s Month as well as to raise funds it needs to sponsor the many youngsters who rely on its support.

It has partnered with the provincial government, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Free State ANCWL, University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology (CUT) to bring De Bruyn to the province.

During her visit the 77-year old De Bruyn will tour parts of Bloemfontein and will visit the Thomas Maphikela House in Batho Location.

The house was owned by Thomas Maphikela who was one of the founder members of the ANC. Some of the most important early meetings of the party, which was founded in 1912, were held at the house.

Maphikela House has since been converted into a museum and was also declared a national heritage site.

De Bruyn is also scheduled to have breakfast on Friday with Mangaung Executive Mayor Thabo Manyoni at his chambers before later taking part in a march from the ANC’s Waaihoek Church birthplace to the CUT, not too far away and where she will meet and talk to students.

Mlamleli said De Bruyn’s visit was an opportunity for her to see how her efforts in the anti-apartheid struggle were paying off as evidenced by the progress made by the ANC government in revamping townships to improve the living conditions of ordinary citizens.

“During the tour, she will see how far we have gone with our township revitalisation programme,” said Mlamleli, who also said De Bruyn shall visit the homes of two veterans of the struggle who were also at the Pretoria march.

The visit, according to Mlamleli, was also an opportunity for women in the province to interact with the struggle veteran, learn from her and be motivated by the story for her role in the 1956 march and her other work for the freedom of all South Africans.

She said: “As women in this province, we are happy to honour Mme Sophie De Bruyn, as we did with Charlotte Maxeke (another heroine of the struggle).

“This event will give us an opportunity to hear from her how she was able to muster the courage to face the apartheid government … she will tell us about her experience on the frontline and where she got the motivation to keep pushing on.”

The march, on August 9, 1956, is seen as a turning point which saw women assuming an equal role with their menfolk in the struggle for truly democratic, non-racists, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa in which the economy is accessible to all.

An estimated 20 000 women drawn from all parts of South Africa and from all races took part in the march against a government law requiring black women to carry the hated pass.

De Bruyn and her late comrades Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Josephs and Rahima Moosa were the main leaders of the protest effort, while the likes of Peters and Louw worked in the regions to make it a success.

Meanwhile the foundation’s Angelique Kemp said they were looking to use funds raised during De Bruyn’s visit to among other things buy food for child feeding schemes at schools and to pay for fees of talented children who come from poor families.

Some of the money will be used to buy menstrual pads for young girls from poor families who cannot afford them.

Kemp hailed De Bruyn for agreeing to help the foundation in its bit to raise funds for its operations.

“This is an immense honour for us that she (De Bruyn) agreed to work with us. This event is to raise funds through partnerships that we have and also to honour Sophie,” Kemp said.

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