In what has been hailed as a long overdue commemorative event, the memorial of Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe was held at the Gauteng Legislature on Wednesday afternoon.
The struggle stalwart and widow of Pan Africanist Congress founder, Robert Sobukwe, died last Wednesday at the age of 91.
PAC members flocked to the City Hall at the Gauteng Legislature to pay tribute to Sobukwe.
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a special official funeral category two for the veteran. This will place on Saturday.
Celebrated as the “mother of Azania”, Sobukwe has been lauded for her continued efforts and bravery during the apartheid struggle, when her husband served a prison term for his role as an activist against the nationalist government.
Former PAC Women’s League president Ellen Mothopeng spoke about the role of women in the party and how they should fight to claim back their stand.
“Let us protect this movement. It is the only organisation that stands by the African people’s struggle. The struggle is not over, Ma’Afrika. I think we are at the beginning of the struggle again,” she said.
Mothopeng spoke out against the grant system and how it debilitated people’s growth.
“People are starving. The question of the grants, we must challenge it because it’s making people dependent, for only R400. We are saying that we need the land to come back to the African people,” she said.
Mothopeng said having the right to land would empower people to grow food and crops in order to make a better living for themselves.
PAC leader Narius Moloto described Sobukwe as a woman of strength who did not seek the spotlight, but stood by her husband during the darkest of times.
“She has gone through many difficulties, at times alone. She took the journey looking after the founder of the PAC, Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, when he was incarcerated and also when he was sentenced by a Parliament to Robben Island.
“She was there [by his side] and remained there, lonely. She brought up children on her own. She lived a life that signifies the true value of an African woman,” he said.
Moloto called on young African women to look up to the values which Sobukwe embodied, in order to “emulate” her ways.
“She never sought popularity. She stood on principle all the way. Now Mama Sobukwe was a woman that all generations, particularly the African women should be able to emulate [and] learn from,” he continued.
“We are struggling to pick up … a complete projection of her life of an African womanhood. What kind of people should we be?” he asked the crowd of mourners who gathered in the hall.
Moloto also affirmed the party’s determination to support and include women.
“They are the financial directors at home, they decide things there. It shows the party is serious about women equality,” he said.
He said the issue of land needed to be dealt with swiftly.
“How can you go around asking people if they want land?” he asked, referring to the land hearings which took place across the country recently.
Moloto said that Sobukwe’s final message to the PAC was to keep the flag of the party flying high and for its members to keep moving forward.
Mbongeleni Joshua Mazibuko, a member of the IFP national executive committee, said that Sobukwe was a freedom fighter in her own right.
“What first brought her and Mr Sobukwe together were matters of the struggle as she was leading the strike by nurses at Lovedale College. That involvement earned her expulsion from the college.”
Like her husband, Sobukwe was a member of the ANC Youth League.
“The Fort Hare ANC Youth League sent her to Johannesburg to deliver a letter to Walter Sisulu concerning the plight of the nurses who were on strike,” said Mazibuko.
“Sobukwe will forever epitomise the spirit of principled defiance and resilience. She withstood and survived ploys of the apartheid regime to break her and her family by turning her into a widow at an early age when they took her husband away from her and children.
“She belonged to that special category of men and women of character, to whom service for their fellow humans was a noble calling; men and women who sacrificed their day so that we would bask in the glory of a democratic South Africa. Her departure leaves the country poorer.