Introductory remarks by Home Affairs Minister and Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on the launch of the Bertha Gxowa Foundation, Bertha Gxowa Clinic, Germiston, Johannesburg
27 Mar 2012
Director of ceremonies, Deputy Minister Dr. Gwen Ramokgopa
Members of the Bertha Gxowa family
The Lord Mayor of Ekurhuleni and our host Mondli Gungubele
Ministers and deputy ministers
Premier of Gauteng Province, Nomvula Mokonyane
Your Excellency Ambassador Thenjiwe Mtintso
Esteemed members of the board of the Bertha Gxowa Foundation
Ladies and gentlemen
Comrades and friends
Members of the media
Tonight we are privileged to join the people of our country in celebrating the life of Ma Bertha Gxowa. During her life, she was one of the greatest organisers and leaders that the African National Congress (ANC), has ever produced.
While she is no longer able to organise and lead our people in the struggle to deepen democracy, freedom, justice and the emancipation of women, we were honoured to have shared a part of her great life in the humble service of the people. For this we shall forever be grateful to her family which allowed us to share her great life.
As we reflect upon this great life we cannot but declare that here among us all, once lived a giant among our people, a leader, an organiser, a comrade, a mother. We are all proud to claim Mama Bertha as truly ours.
We claim Mam-Bertha as ours because of the selfless and unflinching sacrifices she made as part of the broader democratic movement that led our people in the bitter struggle against fascism and colonialism of a special type - apartheid.
Mam-Bertha Gxowa whose life we congregate here tonight to celebrate belongs to that generation of our people who, to paraphrase one writer "lit our road to freedom like a burning meteor, shining brighter than the system that had sought to minimise their humanity, along with that of the people whose yearnings they symbolised."
To celebrate the life of Bertha Gxowa is to invoke a vision that has over the years inspired all freedom loving South Africans to, decisively defeat the monster of apartheid and racism and realise the dream of liberation.
As it must, our celebration of the life of Mama-Bertha Gxowa "resonates with heroism, a steely human resolve and a remarkable vision for human freedom, the antithesis of the intolerable racism in our country which the whole world came to characterise as a crime against humanity."
Ladies and gentlemen
In this regard, we make bold to suggest that in remembering this brave patriot we could use this occasion as a contrast for all that is bitter and sweet in the history of our country. Indeed, we feel bitter at the endless detentions, treason trial and banning orders that were imposed on Mama-Bertha by those who were in authority.
On the other hand, we cannot but feel sweet at the knowledge that the high principles of freedom and equality for which Mam-Bertha struggled, have indeed over time, and because of the relentless struggles of our people for freedom, became the midwives of a free and democratic society.
Critical however, is for those of us who claim Mam-Bertha as theirs, to answer the question frankly and openly: are we the rightful heirs of the legacy of this great stalwart of our movement? How far do we remain true to the teachings and exemplary and revolutionary conduct, behaviour and discipline which were the hallmark of Mam-Bertha's life?
Do we in our daily chores exhibit that steely resolve and determination to ensure we deepen and advance the cause of women in all spheres of our lives-political, social, economic and cultural spheres of our society?
To honour Mama-Bertha as we certainly do tonight, is to uphold all values that defined and characterised her life in its totality - righteousness, humility, steadfastness, loyalty, patriotism, steadfast service, sacrifice, collectivism and solidarity, selflessness, generosity, internationalism, courage, resilience and inspirational leadership.
Accordingly, we must necessarily ask the question how do we best honour and uphold the legacy of this gentle giant of our people? I am certain that those gathered here tonight will jointly and severally come to the necessary conclusion that efforts must indeed be made to preserve this and other legacies of our people in one form or another.
In this regard, we were honoured by the approach made to ourselves by Mam-Bertha Gxowa's family to participate in the establishment of the Bertha Gxowa foundation which will continue the legacy of the work, of this jewel of our people, an activist of a non-sexist society to the core.
Accordingly, the foundation will indeed seek to promote the advocacy work that Mam-Bertha championed among the elderly, the women, youth, children and including the economic empowerment of women. In addition, the foundation will further engage in advocacy work, mentoring and capacity building, while helping to deepen equality, justice and democracy.
Together we are motivated by a vision that seeks to encourage a vibrant discourse, reflection, acknowledgement and recognition of the role of women in the liberation struggle and other areas of society.
We will uncover and share the stories of our known and unknown heroines and integrate them into the centre of South African historiography. And we will strive to inspire future generations of women where they are located.
In this regard, our humble view is that in the launch of the Bertha Gxowa Foundation we hope to:
(i) Launch a flagship project for understanding, acknowledging and honouring women's leadership role in all areas of life.
(ii) Provide a platform that enables people of diverse backgrounds to interact and engage with history of women’s role in shaping South Africa’s past and present and
(iii) Simultaneously seek to connect the Bertha Gxowa Foundation with critical and strategic stakeholders, role players and indeed communities.
We certainly can only succeed in our mission to the extent to which we build sustainable partnerships and collaboration with other sectors of our society that share in the vision of the Foundation and a passion to honour the legacy of Mam-Bertha.
We are working towards launching the Bertha Gxowa Foundation later this year. But we thought we should introduce the idea of the Foundation to comrades and friends of Mama Bertha through this Memorial Lecture.
We have introduced the Mama Bertha Memorial Lecture series this month, since March is also the month in which the international community commemorates International Women's Day which came about as a result of the struggles endured by working women. Beginning in 1909, the day has not lost its relevance more than a century later. Women of the world, continue to strive for equal rights and opportunities, as well as emancipation from other forms of discrimination.
It was most fitting therefore to launch this Lecture series in March since Mama Bertha's natural aversion to inequality experienced by women, and other vulnerable sectors, found expression in the conditions women endured in their places of work in particular, and society in general.
She therefore, from early on, fought for women's emancipation, earning her place amongst the annals of history as one of the chief organisers of the 1956 Women's March.
We are certain that the idea of the establishment of the Bertha Gxowa Foundation will be enriched by those of us present here tonight and others across the length and breadth of our country.
In doing this and through honouring the memory and legacy of Mam-Bertha, we express our profound gratitude and appreciation to the sacrifices that all women of our country - black and white, made in laying a firm foundation for a non-racial, non-sexist democratic society, as Nelson Mandela said, "in which all shall live in peace and harmony."
We are therefore privileged tonight to introduce to you among us, a group of distinguished South Africans, who have worked with and have been touched by the work of Mam-Bertha.
We are humbled that they have dedicated their valuable time and energy to serve in the Board of Trustees of the Berth Gxowa Foundation. These are Hlengiwe Mkhize, Dr. Gwen Ramokgopa, Maurice Radebe, Lazarus Zim, Salukazi Hlongwane-Dakile, Dr. Namane Magau, Scholastica Kimaryo, Sibongile Sithole, Ntombi Mekgoe, Elizabeth Thabethe, Thandi Orleyn-Sekete, Mntukanti Gxowa, Thandi Khumalo, Suzi Sicina, Chana Pilane–Majake, Radi Van Zyl, Tiego Moseneke, Tebogo Maitse, Clive Gullifer, Patricia Khumalo and Nombuyiselo Mokoena.
In conclusion and on behalf of the Bertha Gxowa Foundation, the family of Mam-Bertha, and indeed on my own behalf, may I express my gratitude to all those who found time within their busy schedules to grace this memorial lecture with their presence.
In particular, may I take this opportunity to thank all the speakers for tonight and welcome among them Ambassador Thenjiwe Mtintso, who sacrificed her international responsibilities in the service of our people, to honour and share with us her views on the life and times of Mam-Bertha.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Home Affairs
27 Mar 2012
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