Farewell to a lifelong activist

OBITUARY: Rica Hodgson, 1920-2018

The South African Communist Party has lowered its red flag in honour of a gallant stalwart of the struggle for liberation and social emancipation, Rica Hodgson.

Born on July 1 1920, Hodgson died at the age of 97 on January 11. The SACP joins the Hodgson family in mourning the death of a mother, a progressive author and one of the finest revolutionaries of the national liberation movement.

In honour of Hodgson, South Africa must deepen its work to build a just and democratic society — a South Africa without exploitation, patriarchy and imperialist forces.

Hodgson was awarded the National Order of Luthuli in bronze in 2007, having devoted her life to the struggle for democracy from the early 1940s until her retirement in 1996 as secretary to Walter Sisulu.

In 1943, she became a fundraiser for the Springbok Legion — an organisation that mobilised against fascism in South Africa. She married Jack Hodgson in 1945, and the two shared a life of struggle.

She joined the Communist Party in 1946 and, in 1953, was a founding member of the Congress of Democrats. She travelled around the country, building a network of support for the Congress Alliance, headed by the ANC. She was national secretary of the Congress of Democrats until 1954, when she was served with banning orders under the Suppression of Communism Act.

In 1954, Hodgson served on the national action council for the 1955 Congress of the People. In 1957, following the arrest of 156 struggle leaders, she became a secretary of the Treason Trial Defence Fund and later, in 1961, for the Johannesburg branch of the Defence and Aid Fund.

She was detained during the 1960 state of emergency. During the genesis of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the Hodgsons’ small flat in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, was used to produce explosives for the 1961 Sabotage Campaign. In 1962, she and Jack were placed under house arrest.

They left the country illegally in mid-1963 to set up a transit centre in Botswana for MK cadres. The couple was deported to London in September 1963. From 1964 to 1981, Hodgson worked for the British Defence and Aid Fund and headed the welfare section of the International Defence and Aid Fund, channelling funds to support apartheid prisoners. During this period, she continued to assist in clandestine Communist Party, ANC and MK work in her small London flat.

Hodgson volunteered and joined her son, Spencer, his wife, Claudia, and their daughter, Tanya, in work at the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College, which was established after the Soweto uprising. She served as secretary to the late Tim Maseko, and to Henry Makgothi. She returned to South Africa in 1991 after the unbanning of the SACP and the ANC.

Hodgson rejected outright the racial privilege that many chose to enjoy in the face of a crime against humanity. — This is an edited version of a statement issued by the SACP

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