• Monday, February 06, 2023

Africa

South African Indian-origin freedom struggle veteran Frene Ginwala passes away at 90

Frene Ginwala (1932-2023) in 2001, when she was the speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa. (Photo by ANNA ZIEMINSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

Pioneering South African Indian-origin freedom struggle veteran and National Orders awardee Dr Frene Noshir Ginwala has died. She was 90.

President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed in a statement that Ginwala had died at her home on Thursday (12) evening.

She suffered a stroke and died a fortnight ago.

A grandchild of one of the very few Parsi families who had emigrated from India, Ginwala’s parents sent her to study in the UK before they left South Africa to settle in Mozambique.

After the African National Congress (ANC) was banned and its High Command leaders arrested by the apartheid government in 1963, Ginwala helped many prominent members of the ANC.

Among them were former president Nelson Mandela and others who would later become leaders in the post-apartheid government.

She also helped set up the ANC in exile in Tanzania.

Ginwala was South Africa’s first parliamentary speaker after Mandela became the first democratically elected president of the country in 1994.

“On behalf of the nation and of the legislative, executive and judicial components of the State, (I offer my) sincere condolences to Dr Ginwala’s family, her nephews Cyrus, Sohrab and Zavareh, and their families,” Ramaphosa said.

Born on April 25, 1932, Ginwala served the anti-apartheid struggle and South Africa’s democratic dispensation in a diversity of roles as a lawyer, academic, political leader, activist and journalist.

In 2005, she was honoured with the Order of Luthuli in Silver for her excellent contribution to the struggle against gender oppression and her tireless contribution to the struggle for a non-sexist, non-racial, just and democratic South Africa.

In the same year, Ginwala joined several other veterans of the fight against apartheid to receive the ‘Distinguished Service to Society’ award from the Congress of Business and Economics, which had its roots in the erstwhile Transvaal Indian Congress. Ramaphosa said that many of the rights and material benefits South Africans enjoy today have their origins in the legislative programme of the inaugural democratic Parliament under Dr Ginwala’s leadership.

“Frene Ginwala epitomised the ethos and expectations of our then fledgling Constitution and played an important role in building the capacity of Parliament through the transformation of activists and leaders into lawmakers who were, in turn, able to transform our country,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa also commended Ginwala’s role internationally.

“Beyond African shores, she positioned our young democracy both as one that had as much to contribute to as it had to learn from global precedents and experience,” he said.

Among her diverse activities was serving on the Board of Directors of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Ramaphosa said the government would respect the wishes of the family to have a private funeral, but details of a memorial service would be announced soon.

(PTI)

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