November 19, 2010

ANC veteran Bertha Gxowa dies at 76

ANC veteran Bertha Gxowa has died at 76 from complications after an operation in Johannesburg. Jackson Mthembu, ANC National Spokesperson, issued a statement saying that "MaBertha", as she was affectionately known, would have turned 77 years next week, joined the movement 59 years ago and continued to serve it and the people of South Africa with dignity and distinction. "She endured hardship at the hands of the apartheid regime which included house arrests, detentions and imprisonment because of her strong convictions and beliefs in the freedom of her people," ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu furthermore said in a statement. And Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane hailed her as one of the national organisers of the women's anti-pass march to the Union Buildings in 1956.

Bertha Gxowa was born on the 28 November 1934, in Germiston Location where she spent her early childhood. She went to school at the Thokoza primary School and then the Public Secondary School, both in the location. She began her working life as an office assistant for the South African Clothing Workers’ Union, where she collected subscriptions from factories and participated during wage negotiations. As a result, the union sent her to a commercial college where she studied bookkeeping and shorthand.

Signing up to join the ANC youth league during the anti-Bantu education campaign strengthened her involvement in politics. Her involvement was quickly shifted to focus on women’s issues. She became a founder member of the Federation of South African Women, which organized the historic women’s march against pass laws in 1956.

Bertha Gxowa traveled the entire country with Helen Joseph, collecting petitions that were to be delivered to the union Buildings during the march, 20.000 petitions were collected. Between 1956 and 1958, she was a defendant in the Treason Trial and in 1960 was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act. A status that endured for eleven years.

Once her banning order was lifted, she joined the South African National Tuberculosis Association doing community work. She also went back to her church, the African Methodist Church which as she believed that this was the only church that stood for the cause of black people.

In 1990, after the unbanning of all political parties, Bertha Gxowa was called upon to re-organise the ANC’s Katlehong branch. She started a women’s social club that was invited to participate in voter education during the 1994 election campaign. She became a member of parliament and was actively involved with the ANC Women’s League where she was national Treasurer and chairperson of the Gauteng Province. Her other activities involved sitting as chairperson on the boards of two women’s skills development projects, Malibongwe and Kwazekwasa, which are committed to the total emancipation of women.

She was married to the late Cecil Mntukanti Gxowa, and is survived by five children. (Sunday Independent)


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