Tribute to Mama Lindiwe Myeza

The esteemed Member of the Order of the Baobab, Mama Lindiwe Myeza, has passed away. The Patron of the TMF, President Thabo Mbeki, the Board, the Advisory Council and the Staff of the Foundation convey our heartfelt condolences to the Myeza family and close friends of the deceased.

When President Mbeki, on behalf of the nation, admitted Lindiwe Myeza into the ranks of the Order of the Baobab in 2006, the Chancellery said of her:

“Lindiwe Leah Aida Myeza is an icon representing bravery, resourcefulness and selflessness. She has made an indelible impression on the lives of many and continues to do so. Her commitment to the upliftment of all people has led to a marked improvement in the lives of many of the oppressed and disadvantaged.”

In her own tribute, the eminent academic and intellectual, Professor Christina Landman, said:

“Lindiwe Myeza walks with stories. These include stories about working hand in hand with the great Afrikaner anti-apartheid activist Beyers Naude and caring spiritually and practically for the youth after the Sharpeville massacre of 1960. The most powerful stories relate to the literacy training Myeza conducted to teach the illiterate to read and write and understand their own human dignity.”

Lindiwe Myeza walked with stories because of her many engagements with the black oppressed, especially women, during the challenging years of apartheid oppression, repression, exploitation and impoverishment.

During her younger years Lindiwe Myeza engaged the black youth as a teacher at secondary school and nursing college, determined to inculcate a consciousness among these young people which would defeat the feeling of inferiority which the Bantu education system would seek to inculcate.

It was therefore not an accident that in later years she got deeply involved in assisting and supporting the youth in Soweto as they were involved in the Soweto Uprising. Always a teacher she worked with the University of Witwatersrand to help those students who wanted to complete their schooling outside the Bantu Education schools.

Concerned that the black oppressed should unite against apartheid tyranny, she helped to mediate and end the violent conflicts between the hostel dwellers, such as those of Mzimhlophe, Thembisa, Vosloorus and elsewhere, and the neighbouring local communities.

From 1981she worked as a Director at the Wilgespruit Fellowship Centre (WFC), which served as an important venue for many of the formations of the mass democratic movement. The Centre also ran programmes encompassing such areas as leadership training, women empowerment, industrial mission, self-help projects, conflict resolution and black consciousness.

Because of such activities, already in 1973, the then apartheid Prime Minister, John Vorster, had described the WFC as “a den of iniquity”!

At the WFC Lindiwe Myeza paid particular attention to the development of the most disadvantaged among the black women. For instance, in 1983, she started the WITI, the Women’s Informal Training Initiative, which tackled the challenge of illiteracy to help in the empowerment of women.

It was this same commitment to women’s empowerment which inspired Lindi Myeza to organise a group of 200 women to attend a UN Conference on Women, in Nairobi, Kenya. The Conference focused on issues of equality, development and peace.

When this delegation returned, Lindi Myeza brought 1 000 women together to listen to the report from Nairobi as well as strategise on what to do in the South African context to pursue the same matters of equality, development and peace!

It was therefore no surprise that during our years of freedom she became one of the moving sprits in the mass based initiative called SAWID, South African Women in Dialogue.

Lindiwe Myeza was a deeply spiritual person whose Christianity helped to inspire her and many others to devote their lives to the struggle for the emancipation of our people. To acknowledge her outstanding service to the people the Methodist Church honoured her with the Setiloane Award, named after the eminent intellectual, theologian, churchman and activist for change, Rev Dr Gabriel Setiloane.

As South Africa watched and applauded as she received the insignia of the Order of the Baobab, the people also read in the ceremonial document:

“Myeza has changed the lives of ordinary people, especially women, and has been hailed as an icon and role-model to women’s groups all over South Africa. She has devoted her energies to many initiatives, ranging from knitting classes to publishing. More than 45 of these ventures are still active today. In recognition of her sterling community work, she has travelled widely, representing South Africa at international conferences.”

May she rest in eternal peace.

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