The ANC’s Priscilla Nombewu passed away at age 89 last week at the 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.
She was an activist from the Eastern Cape, who was a member of the party’s underground struggle following its banning by the apartheid government, and was instrumental in the hiding of arms, ammunition and guerillas.
The stalwart of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) is perhaps best known for her involvement in a 1956 march for women’s rights, at which the phrase “Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo” (“You strike a woman, you strike a rock”) was popularised.
On August 9 1956, over 20,000 women of all races marched in unison to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to hand over a petition to apartheid prime minister Hans Strijdom.
Other action she participated in the Ciskei bus boycott of 1983, the resistance to the GJ Koornhof forced removal bills, and the formation of the Release Nelson Mandela campaign.
She was secretary of the ANC’s consumer boycott structure as well the first general secretary of the National Women’s Associations’ Border Region, which later became the East London Women’s Associations. She was its first general secretary.
Two of her three children became members of Umkhonto weSizwe and joined the armed struggle in exile – the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) Brigadier-Generak Siseko Nombewu and Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality councillor Mkhuseli Nombewu.
A memorial service for Nombewu will take place on Saturday at the Nondlwana Methodist Church in Mdantsane, NU 8, near East London in the Eastern Cape.