ANC veteran, Bertha Gxowa, dies

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pretoria - One of the organisers of the women's march to the Union Buildings in 1956 passed away early on Friday morning.

ANC struggle stalwart, Bertha Gxowa passed away at Sunninghill Hospital at 1:20 am, according to a family member. She had been in ICU after undergoing a knee operation a few weeks ago.

Condolences have started to pour in for the respected woman, whom the ANC has described as "a mother and a political mentor to many younger generation leaders of the ANC and its leagues".

Hours before she passed on, ANC top brass including its secretary general Gwede Mantashe, Baleka Mbete, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela visited MaBertha in hospital.

"Some of these leaders were even with her when she took her last gasp. We also take solace that her three daughters were with her as well when she passed on," said ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, who will visit the family home in Katlehong this afternoon, said she was "shocked and saddened" by the news.

Mokonyane said Gxowa would be remembered as a champion for the poor who dedicated her life to the struggle for freedom, especially the empowerment of women.

"We mourn her loss and offer our deepest condolences and solidarity with her family and many friends at this difficult time," said Mokonyane.

MaBertha was born on 28 November 1934, in Germiston Location. She started her working life as an office assistant for the South African Clothing Workers' Union.

Between 1956 and 1958, she was a defendant in the Treason Trial and in 1960 she was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act, a status she held in for eleven years.

After the first democratic election in 1994, MaBertha was elected to Parliament where she served as a member of the Home Affairs and Health Parliamentary Portfolio Committees from 1994 to 2004. She later served as ANC electoral commission chairperson during the 52nd ANC National Conference in Polokwane, Limpopo.

MaBertha's other activities involved sitting as chairperson on the boards of two women's skills development projects, Malibongwe and Kwazekwasa - which are both are committed to the total emancipation of women.

"Mme Gxowa dedicated her entire life to the struggle and to the upliftment of women in South Africa and in particular the poorest of the poor. There is little doubt she is leaving a huge void behind," said Premier Mokonyane.

Gxowa was married to the late Cecil Mntukanti Gxowa, and has five children.

Details of her burial are expected to be announced in due course.

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