Anti-apartheid activist Frene Ginwala, who was the speaker of South Africa’s first democratically elected National Assembly and the first woman to hold the post, has died at the age of 90, the South African presidency announced on Friday. African.
She died at her home on Thursday evening after suffering a stroke two weeks earlier.
“Today we mourn the death of a formidable patriot,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement.
“We have lost another great figure among a particular generation of leaders to whom we owe our freedom and our commitment to continue building the South Africa to which they have dedicated everything,” he added.
Born in Johannesburg into a family from the country’s Indian community, Frene Ginwala had studied law in Great Britain.
His life changed with the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 when apartheid police killed 69 peaceful black protesters against segregation laws, most of them with a bullet in the back. The ANC is then banned and the clandestine movement breaks with non-violence.
Its armed branch, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“the spearhead of the Nation”), then fomented a wave of attacks.
Frene Ginwala left at this time for Mozambique, helping prominent members of the ANC to leave South Africa.
In the 1970s, she became a reference figure in the international media, traveling around the world to lead her fight against apartheid, drawing attention to human rights violations in her country.
“She brought the crimes of the repressive and discredited regime in South Africa to the attention of the international community through her sharp journalistic pen,” said parliament spokesman Moloto Mothapo. According to him, she was the “torchbearer” of the post-apartheid parliament.
Frene Ginwala was appointed Speaker of the National Assembly in 1994, while Nelson Mandela was elected President, marking the end of the apartheid regime. She held this position until 2004.
“Many material rights and benefits enjoyed by South Africans today stem from the legislative program of the first democratic parliament under the leadership of Dr Ginwala,” President Ramaphosa said.
For the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Frene Ginwala was a “pillar of the anti-apartheid struggle”.