Chairperson, I am paying tribute to a struggle hero, Sister Bernard Ncube, who was an activist for women's rights and a long-time opponent of South African apartheid. As a small, tough as nails, militant Roman Catholic nun, she organised and inspired a generation of women to stand up for their human rights and fight apartheid.
Sister Bernard Ncube was consecutively and sometimes concurrently a member of the Select Committee on Arts, Culture and Language, and on Science and Technology; an alternate member of the Select Committee on the Reconstruction and Development Programme and on Safety and Security; a member of Private Members' Legislative Proposals and Petitions; a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; an alternate member of the Select Committee on Abortion and Sterilisation; a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Development Facilitation Bill; and a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Members' Interests.
Sister Ncube was involved in the launching of the Kagiso Ratepayers Association and the Young Christian Workers Association, which became breeding grounds for a generation of anti-apartheid and trade union activists. Her final deployment was as the mayor of the West Rand District Municipality, where she served between 2002 and 2005.
Indeed, losing a struggle giant and a woman of courage is a great loss. This is the time to celebrate her life and acknowledge her contribution to the struggle and to the empowerment of women. Sister Bernard Ncube was a struggle veteran and a champion of women's rights in South Africa. Sister Ncube, who died on Friday, 31 August 2012 at the age of 80, played an integral role by organising women in the 1970s and 1980s in the then Transvaal. She also assisted in establishing the Federation of Transvaal Women and later became that organisation's president.
In 1994, she was elected a member of the first democratic Parliament. She was also the chairperson of the Arts and Culture Portfolio Committee. Comrades, friends and compatriots, it is a challenge for me to share with you the achievements of this stalwart. The formation of the Federation of Transvaal Women demonstrated her concern for women's issues during the dark days of apartheid. This shows that she was a pragmatist who believed in driving change rather than being an eloquent speaker who did not deliver.
Sister Bernard identified passionately with the frustrations that boiled over in the 1976 student uprising in Soweto. She hid students on the run from the police in her convent and arranged hiding places for those she could not accommodate. She was so loved by her community that it gave her the nickname Mmarona [our mother]. The apartheid security police did not feel the same way about her. Their only aim was to destroy the influence of a 50-year-old Catholic nun who was fighting for the liberation of her people. Her story became one of the most evocative of the 1980s.
When Sister Ncube joined the United Democratic Movement, she had the intellect to understand that although women's issues were important, the bigger enemy was apartheid. She fought hand in hand with all of us who believed in a democratic, nonsexist South Africa until we established a democratic government. In that democratic government, she played a pivotal role in fighting for legislation that addressed women's problems. We remember the statistics that showed the prevalence of rape, even then. Therefore, at a time when it was not popular to fight for abortion to enable women who were victims of rape to have this choice, she led this fight and made sure that the legislation on abortion was passed.
I know a lot will be said and has been said about Sister Bernard being a nun, but I must also acknowledge her achievements as a nun, her commitment to her country and her desire for a better life for all. She understood that one could be a Christian but the Christian belief could not be pursued in an oppressive apartheid system. It was therefore better to fight with the collective so that we could all practise our various beliefs in a democratic South Africa.
Her life must serve as a reminder to all women that the struggle for the emancipation of women is not over. Our children and their children need to know that we have taken the baton and are marching on to ensure that women are treated as equals in our country. May the celebration of the life of such heroes remind us that we need to change South African men who rape and abuse women to people who have goals to make our country a better country. The time has come for us as women to challenge our society to have stable homes with both parents present, so that discipline can begin at home.
Robala ka kagiso, mmarona. Re a leboga. [Rest in peace, Ma'am. Thank you.]