Anti-Apartheid Activist Helen Suzman Passes

Posted: January 6, 2009 by trggradio in Uncategorized

Hundreds of mourners have attended the funeral of South Africa’s celebrated anti-apartheid campaigner Helen Suzman, who died on New Year’s Day aged 91. Mrs Suzman, who for years was the only lawmaker to openly condemn the whites-only regime, was buried in a private Jewish ceremony in Johannesburg.

The mourners included President Kgalema Motlanther and the last leader of apartheid regime, F W de Klerk.
Mr de Klerk described Mrs Suzman as “one of South Africa’s great icons”. “Suzman was my mentor, she was opposed to the abuse of power by the old apartheid regime,” South Africa’s opposition leader Helen Zille – who also attended the funeral – said.

“She was also opposed to the current abuses of power by the current ANC [African National Congress] government,” Ms Zille added. For 13 years, Mrs Suzman, the daughter of Jewish Lithuanian immigrants, was the only MP to openly condemn South Africa’s whites-only apartheid regime. She was made an honorary dame by Queen Elizabeth II in 1989. She was also twice-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mrs Suzman, who had been in a frail condition recently, died at her home in Johannesburg early on Thursday.

She first entered the South African parliament in 1953, soon becoming a thorn in the side of the apartheid regime, says the BBC’s Peter Biles, in Johannesburg. She was a frequent visitor of jailed ANC leader Nelson Mandela when he was held in Robben Island prison for 18 years. Mr Mandela – who was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994 – wrote of her in his biography: “It was an odd and wonderful sight to see this courageous woman peering into our cells and strolling around our courtyard. She was the first and only woman ever to grace our cells.” After stepping down from parliament in 1989, Mrs Suzman continued to speak out against what she saw as the failings of the post-apartheid ANC administration.

Mrs Suzman was born in Germiston, Gauteng, on 7 November 1917. In 1937 she married doctor Moses Meyer Suzman. The couple later had two daughters.


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