/ 2 January 2009

Tributes continue to pour in for Suzman

Tributes continued to pour in on Friday for veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Helen Suzman, who died on Thursday morning.

Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said Suzman had not been given the recognition she deserved.

“I hope that in the hour of her passing this will begin to be rectified … She is, without doubt, one of the unsung heroines of the struggle.”

Buthelezi said Suzman had demonstrated “raw courage” in curbing some of the worst excesses of the apartheid government with her forensic parliamentary skills and relentless badgering of National Party politicians to, occasionally, “do the right thing”.

“Helen played a straight bat and played it for all it was worth.

“She always said what she meant, and meant what she said,” Buthelezi said.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies joined fellow South Africans in mourning the loss of Suzman.

The board said Suzman had made it clear in an interview that she had never spoken officially as a Jew and had not spoken officially for black people either. She stated that she spoke on issues, “and it was this principled stand that characterised Helen Suzman’s political career, in which she used her position in Parliament to oppose apartheid laws and expose the injustices they caused,” the board said.

The Democratic Alliance Students’ Organisation (Daso) said Suzman embodied the principle of an injustice to one sector of society being an injustice to all.

“It is such leaders that have set the tone for youth branches such as the Daso, who follow in the footsteps of the liberal tradition, to strive for the liberty of all of South Africa’s citizens.

“Her fight will continue to echo throughout history,” Daso said.

South African filmmaker Anant Singh described Suzman as a true patriot who earned the love and respect of the people though her selfless actions.

“We salute her for her commitment to our nation’s struggle for democracy.”

‘An inspiration’
The Houghton constituency — which Helen Suzman served for 36 years — also paid tribute on Friday.

“Suzman was an inspiration, role model and icon for liberal democrats, particularly in the Progressive Party and its successors in the Democratic Alliance,” said David Quail, MPL for the Democratic Alliance’s Houghton/Alexandra Constituency.

He said that Suzman’s advice to public representatives was to go and see for themselves and make decisions and act on the basis of DA core values and principles.

“She was a staunch defender of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, rule of law, separation of powers, the independence of the
judiciary and the free market with social responsibility,” he said.

“To the very end Helen was a people’s politician.”

Meanwhile, Suzman deserves nothing less than an official funeral, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Friday.

“She was a true heroine who contributed to our country’s peaceful transition when many predicted a racial bloodbath,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said in a statement sent to Agence France-Presse.

“South Africa is a poorer place without her … We owe her an immense debt. The least a grateful nation should do to show its appreciation for her contribution is to afford her an official funeral.”

Suzman died peacefully at her home in Johannesburg.

He daughter, Frances Jowell, said a private funeral would be held over the weekend.