Photo: Frene Noshir Ginwala, a South African of Indian descent. Source: Global Information Network. - Photo: 2023

Early Anti-Apartheid Activist Passes At 90 Years of Age

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — “Too often, democracy is seen as an event which happens once in five years.”

Thus spoke Frene Noshir Ginwala, a South African of Indian descent who was the first speaker of the country’s democratic parliament. While she was modest about her achievements, she left an indelible mark on South Africa’s constitution and democratic institutions.

Described as a feisty feminist, astute political tactician and committed cadre of South Africa’s governing party, she joined the African National Congress around the time of the “Sharpeville Massacre” of 1960 when police fired on a group of unarmed Blacks in the town of Sharpeville who were protesting discriminatory “pass laws”.

Some 67 Africans were killed and 186 wounded after the police opened fire on the crowd.

The incident forced many ANC leaders into exile. Ginwala facilitated the exit of ANC president Oliver Tambo into Mozambique, crossing the border into Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and into a safe house. It was the beginning of a long and important comradeship. 

She became assistant to Tambo and was instrumental in setting up the ANC office in Tanzania after the leaders were banned. 

In the early 1960s, she created a newspaper, Spearhead, wrote articles for a variety of international media outlets, wrote speeches for Tambo and gave speeches herself. Her time in Tanzania was interrupted when she was suddenly banned herself by the government of Tanzania for her critical commentary, and she left for the UK.  

President Julius Nyerere lifted her ban in 1967 and asked her to return to Dar es Salaam to establish a new national newspaper, The Standard. In the 1970s, she became a prominent figure in international media, travelling around the world to muster support for the anti-apartheid movement and draw attention to abuses against the Black majority population. 

Ms Ginwala passed away on January 12 at her home, shortly after suffering a stroke. She was 90 years old. 

“Today we mourn the passing of a formidable patriot,” President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on January 13.

“We have lost another giant among a special generation of leaders to whom we owe our freedom and to whom we owe our commitment to keep building the South Africa to which they devoted their all,” he observed.

“Ginwala exposed to the international community the crimes of the discredited, oppressive regime in South Africa through her sharp journalistic pen,” said parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo, calling her a “torchbearer” of the post-apartheid parliament, instrumental in the formation of South Africa’s democracy. 

“In a country blessed with exceptional leaders,” added Shireen Hassam of The Conversation, “Ginwala must surely count among the best.” [IDN-InDepthNews — 16 January 2023]

Photo: Frene Noshir Ginwala, a South African of Indian descent. Source: Global Information Network.

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