Struggle icon hailed

People came in numbers to honour and celebrate the life of the living struggle veteran Mama Mandu Ramakaba-Lesiea. Here she is with Land Reform and Rural Development Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha, Human Settlements Deputy Minister Zoe Kota-Fredericks and Public Enterprises minister Lynn Brown.

In line with this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “Be Bold for Change” Deputy Minister for Human Settlements Zoe Kota-Fredericks and her Land Reform and Rural Development counterpart Mcebisi Skwatsha hosted a dialogue in honour of struggle veteran Mandu Ramakaba-Lesiea, on Friday March 31.

International Women’s Day is marked on March 8.

Earlier in the day Ms Ramakaba-Lesiea had received an Honorary Doctorate in Public Management from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

In a packed Luyolo Multi-Purpose Centre, Ms Kota-Fredericks thanked Ms Ramakaba-Lesiea for her teachings and ubuntu.

The Gugulethu stalwart was the first woman to be held at Pollsmoor Prison, and the honour bestowed on her by CPUT highlighted the role played by women in the anti-apartheid struggle, said Ms Kota-Fredericks.

“I am excited that she is being honoured while she is still alive. The honour she got from the institution is on behalf of all the women of her time. It was her who taught us about the Freedom Charter. We are what we are because of her and other women leaders,” she said.

Ms Kota-Fredericks said she was happy that she was honoured while alive when some veterans were posthumously honoured.

Mr Skwatsha recalled when Ms Ramakaba-Lesiea visited him in his cell in Pollsmoor Prison. He said no one had been allowed to see him, but Ms Ramakaba-Lesiea had managed to get in.

“How she did it, I don’t know. But she was in my cell with a bucket of Kentucky. I do not know how she thought I was going to finish that. However, she was a brave women. She was among the struggle veterans, like Lilian Ngoyi and others. She was not just part of the women who marched to Pretoria to call for pass laws to be scrapped, but she was at the forefront,” he said.

Mr Skwatsha said many women risked their lives to protect others during the anti-apartheid struggle and many of Gugulethu’s youth activists had worked under the guidance of Ms Ramakaba-Lesiea.

Mr Skwatsha lashed out at the current leaders, particularly councillors, whom he accused of not caring for the people.

Women like Ms Ramakaba-Lesiea should be commended for their strength, dedication and commitment to the service, he said..

An ecstatic Ms Ramakaba-Lesiea thanked those who honoured her and appealed to the young people to work for the country.

The 83-year-old assured ANC members that the organisation would not die. “One potato can not kill this organisation. We need to unite and build the organisation,” she said.

She also thanked her family and her children for their support.