Address by Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha on the occasion of the unveiling of a Commemmorative Plaque in honour of Mrs Charlotte Makgomo Maxeke (Née Manye) In Soweto

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14 Sep 2006

Programme Director, Ms Manyakanyaka-Manzini
Dr Mannya and the entire Maxeke and Mannya families
Chairperson of SARHA, Dr Ndlovu
The CEO of SAHRA, Mr Buthelezi
Stalwarts of our Movement
Representatives of the ANCWL
Esteemed members of our communities
Comrades and friends

It is with a deep sense of humility and appreciation that I accepted the invitation from SAHRA to come here today to participate in this special ceremony in honour of our beloved mother, Mme Charlotte Maxeke. Today I am at a loss for words. It is, indeed, a memorable day but also for some of us it is a very emotional day and I would like to thank SAHRA as well as the Mannya and Maxeke families for affording us this privilege.

In the articles I have read about this remarkable woman, she is described as a woman of extraordinary intellect whose every action was “expressive of her diligence, determination, courage, dedication to the highest ideals and principles”.

What I read into her story is that she was humble and selfless with a deep love for the people of her country. She was a profound person in every sense and it is with great respect and pride that we today honour her in a manner that befits her stature. She is, indeed, one of the greatest leaders of our people our country has ever produced.

Ma Charlotte Maxeke died in 1939 but her legacy continues to inspire generation after generation. This year marks the 50 th Anniversary of the march of over 20 000 women to the Union Building in Pretoria who were protesting against the extension of the pass laws to women. These women, Ma Lillian Ngoyi, Ma Bertha Gxowa, Ma Sophie de Bruyn and all those who were there in 1956, were inspired by this great woman, Charlotte Maxeke.

A few years ago, in paying tribute to Mme Charlotte Maxeke, someone wrote: “Dr Charlotte Manye Maxeke was a person that I would have loved to have known”. I am convinced that all of us feel this way too. She was exemplary. There is so much that we can learn from her and so much we could achieve by following in her footsteps, a humble and selfless woman, passionate about what she believed in and dedicated to the true liberation of her people.

It is reported that Dr Xuma described her as “the Mother of African Freedom”. Freedom, in any form, starts with knowledge. Knowledge is about information and understanding and this is what Ma Charlotte brought back to us after she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in the United States of America. She returned with the desire and enthusiasm to impart the knowledge she had acquired, to her own people. She and her husband founded the Wilberforce College in Evaton.

What a talented and hard-working woman she was. She was involved in so many activities. She was a wife, a mother, a singer, a teacher, a linguist, a trade unionist, a public service official, a church leader, a political activist, a leader of the Women’s League, a fiery proponent of human rights and dignity.

How did she manage to be involved in all these activities and yet be so successful? Because “she was preordained for achievement and excellence” one writer said about her. No, I disagree with that statement. I believe that she was truly committed to what she believed in. She was focused and determined to free her people from the intellectual, economic, social and cultural oppression and to restore their dignity, identity and selfworth and promote a sense of ubuntu.

What is even also remarkable about Ma Charlotte’s life is that she was supported by her husband, Dr Marshall Maxeke, throughout her career and in all she was involved in. What can we learn from this icon of our revolution?

This year, marking the 50 th Anniversary of the Women’s March, we consciously chose the theme: “Age of Hope – through struggle to freedom”. We thought that it would be an opportunity for us to reflect on the lessons we have learnt from our predecessors, those who were the pioneers of our road to freedom like Mama Charlotte Maxeke.

What legacy are we going to leave for our children and future generations? Shouldn’t we all be cutting a pattern (“sisike I patroni” as my own mother would say) from the life of this great woman?

Today, I will not direct these questions only to women. I believe that all of us, women and men, owe it to Mama Charlotte to commit ourselves once again to the service of our people. Our struggle for the total liberation of our people is not over yet. And as we pay tribute to her today, let us do some soul-searching. Are we prepared to continue the work she started without all the faith, determination and vigour?

May the spirit of Mama Maxeke be with us always.

I thank you.