/ 14 February 2013

Activist Phyllis Naidoo dies

Struggle veteran and author Phyllis Naidoo.
Struggle veteran and author Phyllis Naidoo.

The ANC has paid tribute to activist Phyllis Naidoo (85) who died on Thursday in hospital.

Naidoo died of heart failure at Chief Albert Luthuli Hospital and was cremated according to her wishes at a private crematorium, the Daily News reported.

The ANC said it was saddened by her death. "The ANC dips its flag in honour of comrade Phyllis Naidoo," said spokesman Keith Khoza.

Naidoo was born in Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal, on January 5 1928. Later in her life she joined the Natal Indian Congress and became involved with the South African Communist Party (SACP).

She and her husband helped fellow activists to get out of the country. Naidoo was put under a banning order by the apartheid government in 1966. The next year her husband MD Naidoo was imprisoned on Robben Island and she was placed under house arrest.

Activist and writer
​She studied law during that time and qualified as a lawyer in 1973. Activists who had been released from Robben Island went to Naidoo to find employment. At one stage, she employed five ex-Robben Island detainees, including President Jacob Zuma, as messengers at her law firm.

In 1977, Naidoo escaped to Lesotho where she was involved in welfare work and assisted the ANC and SACP. She moved to Zimbabwe in 1983, and only returned to South Africa in 1990.

Naidoo wrote seven books, including the 'Footsteps' series and 'Le rona re batho: an account of the 1982 Maseru Massacre'.

Amina Cachalia
South Africa lost another struggle veteran earlier this year with the death of Amina Cachalia.

Cachalia's activism began at an early age when she became a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress, and then the ANC. In 1948 she was one of the founders of the Women's Progressive Union.

In 1954 she was also involved in the founding of the Federation of South African Women and was instrumental in the 1950s in the success of the Defiance Campaign.

Her participation in the Germiston March at that time led to her arrest and sentencing to 14 days in prison.

After her release she was involved in the march by 20 000 women to the Union Buildings to present a petition against pass laws. Around this time her and her husband, Yusuf, became good friends with Nelson Mandela.

She was awarded the Order of Luthuli in bronze for "her lifetime contribution to the struggle for gender equality, non-racialism and a free and democratic South Africa". – Sapa