14 April 2015
The work and sacrifices of 89-year-old Ruth Segomotsi Mompati were recognised with the unveiling of a statue of the struggle veteran in Vryburg in the North West province on Friday.
Honouring Mompati while she was still alive was the decent and right thing to do, North West Provincial Premier Supra Mahumapelo said at the function held to mark the opening of the revamped Hayes Community Park.
“Recognising and celebrating the exceptional role Mama Ruth played in the liberation struggle could not be any better than this, as this will help us never to forget our past,” he said. “We thank you, Mama Ruth, for having laid a solid foundation for us.”
The park has recently received a R2.6-million upgrade, commissioned by the Department of Public Works as part of its Expanded Public Works Programme.
‘Mark of unity’
In her speech, Mompati said: “This statue symbolises the struggle of all races because it is the struggle I was involved in. I dedicate it to all South Africans; especially the people of Vryburg and women of this country, the sculpture must always be seen as a mark of unity, which all must embrace”.
Mompati was born in 1925 at Tlapeng village in Ganyesa, outside Vryburg. She was she was one of the organisers of Women’s March on 9 August 1956.
She worked as a typist for Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo in their Johannesburg law firm from 1953 to 1961. She joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1954 and was elected to the national executive committee of the Women’s League.
In a tribute to Mandela following the former president’s death in December 2013, Mompati told You magazine: “You could see the type of person he [Mandela] was – he was able to relate to people with respect and therefore he was respected in return &ellip; He wasn’t arrogant; he was more a man with a big heart. I’m not quite sure that I know why women found him attractive although he was an attractive man and he had personality. It must be because he listened. He didn’t talk down to women; he treated them as if they mattered.”
Mompati went into exile in 1962, where she underwent military training. She was secretary and head of the women’s section of the ANC in Tanzania. From 1966 to 1973, Mompati was a member of the ANC’s national executive council.
During this time, she became part of the ANC president’s office. She also served as the head of the party’s Board of Religious Affairs. From 1981 to 1982, Mompati worked as the chief representative of the party in the United Kingdom and became part of the delegation that opened talks with the South African government at Groote Schuur in 1990.
On 10 August 1992, a day after the anniversary of the historic Women’s March to Pretoria in 1956, she addressed the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid in New York on the subject of women. The day was then declared an International Day of Solidarity with Women in South Africa.
In 1994, she was elected a member of Parliament.
She was appointed ambassador to Switzerland from 1996 to 2000 and, on her return, she became the mayor of Vryburg’s Naledi municipality. Bophirima District Municipality, one of the four districts in North West province, was renamed Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality.
Mompati received South Africa’s highest honour – Isithwalandwe Seaparankwe – from President Jacob Zuma in January 2014 in recognition of the enormous contribution and sacrifice she made during the liberation struggle.
The event, held under the theme, “Celebrating our living heritage and legend”, was attended by Kebby Maphatsoe, the Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans; Max Sisulu, the Executive Council of the Provincial Administration; veterans of the Luthuli Detachments; representatives of the Ruth Mompati Foundation; and hundreds members of the community.