President Cyril Ramaphosa praised Dr. Frene Ginwala’s commitment to the anti-apartheid movement, her role in establishing South Africa’s first democratic parliament, and her battle for gender equality.
On Tuesday, the President delivered the eulogy during the official memorial ceremony for Ginwala, which was held at the Johannesburg City Hall.
Ginwala passed away at her residence on January 12 at the age of 90, two weeks after suffering a stroke.
The President said Ginwala brought her “legal training, her sharp and incisive mind and her political conviction” to the table when it was time to forge South Africa’s new constitutional order and gave recognition to her as a “pioneer in building our democracy from the ruins of Apartheid”.
“Yet it was in her role as the first Speaker of a democratically elected National Assembly that she had the greatest and most enduring impact on our young democracy. Over the course of a decade in that position, she forged a new institution that reflected the great diversity, the struggles, the aspirations, the culture and the practices of the people of South Africa.
“With her calm and deliberate determination she forged an institution that stands at the centre of our democracy. It is an institution that continues to this day to fulfil its Constitutional purpose as the representative, the voice, the champion and the instrument of the people of our country,” he said.
Referring to Ginwala’s role in the battle against apartheid and tyranny, President Ramaphosa said that she never missed an occasion to advocate for the democratic cause.
“On whatever platform, given whatever opportunity, Comrade Frene Ginwala was an eloquent, persuasive champion of the cause of the South African people.
“With her keen intellect, her measured delivery and her clear articulation of the principles and the purpose of our struggle, she felled many a critic and earned many a friend.
“Through her writings, whether as a journalist, as a researcher or an academic or an activist, she provided both incisive critiques and clear vision. She told us what was wrong with the world and, most importantly, how it could be made better,” he said.
Additionally, the President recognised Ginwala’s work for equal rights for women, both inside the anti-apartheid movement and globally.
“At a time when scant attention was given to the many ways in which women were oppressed and exploited, Comrade Frene fought for the struggles of women to be recognised.
“In a political environment in which the dominance of men didn’t even invite comment, Frene Ginwala was one of the few voices that was always consistent and insistent that women should occupy their rightful position in the struggle.
“As Comrade Frene would remind us, until we have achieved equality between men and women in all spheres of life, we will not be free,” he said.
The President conveyed to Ginwala’s family the condolences and prayers of the whole country.
“To her family, especially her beloved nephews Zav, Cyrus and Sohrab, we share in your sorrow. May you be comforted by the knowledge that Comrade Frene’s spirit, her courage, her wisdom and her generosity will forever be remembered.
“Comrade Frene, go well. Hamba kahle Mbokodo. If we ever had a Mbokodo, you are the Mbokodo that we really had. Lala kahle Madam Speaker,” the President said.