Heroine, activist Mama Zondeni Sobukwe passes away

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his condolences following the passing away of Mama Zondeni Sobukwe.

“The loss – in Women’s Month - of Mama Sobukwe is a sad loss to the Sobukwe family, Foundation and our nation at large. We have lost a heroine of resistance and a fighter for the freedom of all South Africans, who continued her activism into our democratic dispensation. We will always remember and honour her extraordinary contribution,” said President Ramaphosa.

Sobukwe, 91, passed away in the early hours of Wednesday. She was the wife of Pan Africanist Congress founding President Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Robert Sobukwe.

“President Ramaphosa’s thoughts are with the Sobukwe family, the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Foundation and the leadership and membership of the Pan Africanist Congress,” said the Presidency.

On 28 April 2018 – and as an extension of Freedom Day celebrations – President Ramaphosa bestowed the National Order of Luthuli in Silver on Mama Sobukwe, who was affectionately known as “Mother of Azania”.

Tributes have poured in from all corners of the country with the Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela Foundation also expressing their condolences.

“Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe epitomises the collective struggles of Black people in South Africa. Her title of 'Mother of Azania' speaks to her insurmountable commitment to the youth and peoples of South Africa, as well as her fierce activism and struggle against racial discrimination.

“Whilst saddened by her passing, we celebrate her humility and selflessness, and will remember her as one of the greatest leaders of our nation, a champion of our young democracy,” said Nkosinathi Biko, Executive Trustee at the Steve Biko Foundation.

In her youth, Mama Sobukwe participated and led protest marches against racist conditions imposed on trainee Black nurses at Victoria hospital eDikeni (Alice).

Her leadership of this protest march resulted in her later meeting with Robert Sobukwe, then President of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) at the University of Fort Hare.

Reflecting on her passing, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said it came to know Mama Sobukwe when it worked with her and her family to produce an exhibition in honour of her late husband.

“The exhibition, titled Remember Africa, which went on to be displayed in other parts of the country and depicts Sobukwe’s life from his formative years in Graaff-Reinet through his years at Fort Hare University and later as a political activist and a prisoner on Robben Island.

“Our condolences to her friends, comrades and family,” said the Foundation. – SAnews.gov.za