Zuma sings MaBertha's praises

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has paid tribute to Bertha Gxowa, describing her as one of the most committed heroines of the freedom struggle.

Gxowa, affectionately known as MaBertha, passed away on Friday.

"She is one of many men and women who selflessly chose to dedicate their lives to the people of this country and the improvement of the quality of life for all South Africans. As a nation we shall be eternally grateful and are very proud of her," Zuma said.

MaBertha was one of the organisers of the women's march to the Union Buildings in 1956.

Zuma said she was a staunch trade unionist, freedom fighter and a strong advocate for women's rights and emancipation throughout her life.

"She will be sorely missed not only by her family, but by the broader body of the women of South Africa whose rights and wellbeing she tirelessly championed over decades, as well as the entire South African nation for the enduring legacy of democracy and equality that she cherished," he added.

Zuma noted that MaBertha never retired from public service and served as a Member of Parliament until her last days.

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 11 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.

Her 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.