South Africa mourns struggle stalwart Ruth Mompati

14 May 2015

Ruth Segomotsi Mompati, another much loved South African struggle veteran, has died.

The 89-year-old politician died in the early hours of Tuesday morning following a long illness, ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said in a statement.

The party said it would would miss Mompati’s “unwavering determination in serving the nation”.

“The African National Congress sends its deepest condolences to Mama Ruth Mompati’s family and friends. We thank them for having lent us this icon of the struggle of liberation of the South African people,” said Kodwa.

“The ANC and South Africa as a whole has lost a towering giant and a mother to countless generations of activists. May her soul rest in everlasting peace knowing that her role in building our country’s future will never be forgotten.

“As a people we owe it to her and generations before that our vision of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society comes to pass.”

President Jacob Zuma sent his condolences to Mompati’s family. “The whole nation is mourning, in particular those who worked with Mme Ruth from exile to Parliament and various structures of both the ANC and government,” he said. “We feel an immense void.”

Mompati joined the struggle as a young woman and continued to serve her country until her last days.

Mama Ruth, as she was known, worked as a typist for the late former president Nelson Mandela and ANC stalwart Oliver Tambo in their law practice between 1953 and 1961, during which time she joined the ANC and was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Women’s League.

Mompati was involved in the Defiance Campaign and was a founding member of the Federation of SA Women. She was one of the leaders of the historic women’s march on the 9 August 1956, which is commemorated every year on Women’s Day.

Exile

In 1962, Mompati went into exile where she underwent military training and held office as secretary and head of the women’s section of the ANC in Tanzania.

From 1966 to 1973, Mompati remained a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee. During this time, she also formed part of the president’s office of the ANC, also later heading ANC’s Board of Religious Affairs.

In the early 1980s, Mompati served as the chief representative of the ANC in the United Kingdom. She became part of the delegation that opened talks with the South African government at Groote Schuur in 1990.

One of her many career highlights included addressing the United Nations Special Committee against apartheid in New York in 1992, where she addressed the subject of women’s rights. The day was then declared an International Day of Solidarity with Women in South Africa.

After South Africa’s first democratic elections, Mompati served as a Member of Parliament in 1994. Between 1996 and 2000, she was the country’s ambassador to Switzerland.

On her return she became the mayor of Vryburg in the North West province and later served as an executive member of Umkontho WeSizwe Veteran’s Association.

“She leaves behind a proud legacy of steadfastness, resilience and selfness for her exceptional and outstanding contribution and sacrifice to the liberation struggle,” said Kodwa.

The South African Local Government Association (Salga) said it would remember Mompati as part of the leadership that established local government.

“The Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality [formerly Bophirima District Municipality] in the North West, where she was born and later served as mayor, is named after her. This is also where a statue symbolising her contribution was recently unveiled.

“We pledge our solidarity and convey our heartfelt condolences to the Mompati family and loved ones. We lower our banner to honour her life which she dedicated in the service of our people, and pledge to pick up the spear and redouble our efforts in advancing the quest to deepen local democracy, development and provision of quality services to our people,” said Salga, which marks its 15th anniversary this year.

‘Selflessness’

Mosiuoa Lekota, leader of the Congress of the People, described Mompati as “a paragon of selflessness and virtue”, likening her to Mandela.

“Ruth was a mother, wife, friend, teacher, activist, warrior, negotiator, MP, diplomat, scholar, mayor and a bastion of morality. She was the complete human being,” said Lekota.

“A year after the death of the great Nelson Mandela she asked publicly what she, Ruth Mompati, had done, what we had done, to move the struggle forward to achieve a better life for our people. This says all we need to say about her.”

Source: SAinfo reporter, SAnews.gov and News24