ANC veterans honour anti-apartheid icon

Gugulethu seniors marched through the streets to honour the late activist Dora Tamana.

Sixty years ago, South African women from all walks of life staged a march to the Union Buildings of Pretoria to protest apartheid’s pass laws.

Among those women was a Gugulethu resident who arrived in Pretoria with nothing but her “dompas” which was to be burnt as part of the resistance campaign.

The late Mama Dora Tamana became the talk of the town after the march.

She refused to be told what to do by the apartheid government. She made her views heard.

At home, she had started crèches because she wanted women to go to work without having to worry about their children.

Now, as the country celebrates the 60th anniversary of the march, Gugulethu senior citizens have come together and launched a Dora Tamana Veterans branch in her honour.

The streets of Gugulethu were abuzz during the launch on Wednesday July 13, as the seniors, clad in their African National Congress colours, sang joyfully. They marched from NY94 to Mam’uDora’s house in NY89, shouting “Viva the spirit of Mam’uDora” and “Long live the spirit of Dora”. They then went to the Lutheran church hall for the launch, being joined along the way by other residents, young and old.

According to her admirers and relatives, her will to help others and fight the apartheid government made Mama Dora a household name.

The chairperson of the branch, Khunjulwa Bontshi, said the decision to honour her was taken at the beginning of the year. The launch was meant to take place on April 27.

“But the day just got too busy with events. We sat down as elders and took this brave decision to do something in her name. We are the only veterans that thought of her family and relatives. We want to bring seniors together and discuss issues that are bothering us in the new South Africa.

“We want to monitor if the change that she fought for does exist,” she said.

But Ms Bontshi said service delivery is moving at a snail’s pace. She criticised former “comrades” who are now in government for distancing themselves from ordinary people.

“It is a pity that those who are in Parliament now care less about us. We have scars. We were sjambokked and shot at. Some seniors are on wheelchairs today because of the struggle but no one cares about them.

“Instead those who are in Parliament call their brothers and sisters from the Eastern Cape who were not even in the struggle to work in Parliament. The nation is bleeding,” she said to applause from the audience.

She called on Mama Dora’s grandchildren to follow in her footsteps. She expressed hope that there would one day be a leader from the Tamana house.

Another veteran, Xabiswa Masiza, agreed that Mama Dora left the country inspired.

They were excited to have finally honoured Mama Dora and hoped more seniors would be part of the branch.

“We honour her because we believe as much as she is no more, she still talks to us. Her spirit lives on. I am delighted that we finally made this possible. She was a very inspirational woman,” she said.

Mama Dora’s great-grandchild, Mongezi Tamana, said his grandmother’s decision to fight for her country and her people was so she could change her life and that of others for good.

“She died when I was young but I know that she loved people, especially children. She had a crèche and created more around Gugulethu and in other areas. That is why you will find a couple of crèches named after her. She loved education. That is all I remember about her. But I know she was more into self-reliance. She always preached that to us,” he said.

Her great-grandchildren believe that there is still much to be achieved in our country but there is hope for the future.