Citizen Reporter
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2 minute read
7 Dec 2021
8:30 am

Poet and freedom fighter Lindiwe Mabuza passes away

Citizen Reporter

Mabuza died at her home, surrounded by family, at the age of 83.

The late African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela (R) and Lindiwe Mabuza (L), the ANC's chief representative to the U.S., look up at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, 20 January 1993, after taking their seats for the inauguration of Bill Clinton as the U.S.'s 42nd president. (Photo by ARYEH RABINOVICH / AFP)

The ANC on Monday night confirmed the passing of veteran diplomat, poet, feminist, struggle icon and cultural activist Lindiwe Mabuza, who died at her home. 

Mabuza was 83 years old. 

“Our sincerest condolences to her family, loved ones, friends and comrades,” the party said.

At the time of her passing, Mabuza was editing a book of reflections on the relations between the ANC and Sweden during the anti-apartheid struggle.

The ANC’s matriarch 

Mabuza was born in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, and studied at Roma University in Lesotho, before teaching English and isiZulu literature. 

She had published five volumes of poetry, short stories and a children’s book. 

One of her poems, To Quincy, was published in Feminist Studies in 1995. 

She was also a co-editor of Oliver Tambo Remembered.

Mabuza joined the ANC in 1975, becoming a journalist for Radio Freedom, which was based in Lusaka, Zambia.

Her interest in the issues plaguing women resulted in her being involved with the ANC’s feminist journal, Voice of Women, which gave women a platform to write poetry.

From 1977 to 1979, Mabuza chaired the ANC cultural committee, and was instrumental in the Cultural and Resistance Conference of 1982, held in Botswana.

Poet and freedom fighter Lindiwe Mabuza passes away
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (L) speaks to a crowd in London’s Trafalgar Square as South African High Commissioner Dr. Lindiwe Mabuza (2nd L), Frank Dobson, MP (2nd R) and London Mayor Ken Livingston listen during celebrations for South Africa’s 10th Freedom Day, 27 April, 2004. Freedom Day celebrates the end of the Apartheid, the white South African policy of segregation. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA / AFP)

Former ANC President Oliver Tambo also assigned Mabuza to open the first ANC representative office in Scandinavia in 1979, making her the first ANC chief representative based abroad, in Sweden. 

It was here where she worked closely with Swedish Prime Minister Olaff Palmer, and led campaigns for the liberation struggle.

She was then transferred as chief representative to the US in 1986, to continue rallying support for the anti-apartheid struggle.

Together with the likes of former US senator Reverend Jesse Jackson, singer Harry Belafonte, boxing champion Muhammed Ali and actor Jane Fonda, Mabuza worked to put pressure on major companies to disinvest in South Africa during apartheid. 

After 1994, she became one of the pioneer members of Parliament, after which she joined the South African diplomatic corps. 

Mabuza served as South Africa’s Ambassador to Germany, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, the UK and Ireland. 

Her accolades include an honorary doctorate from the University of Durban-Westville in 1993, the Yari Yari Award for contributions to human rights and literature from New York University in 1997, and was bestowed the South African National Order of Ikhamanga in Silver in 2004. 

“Lala Ngoxolo, Her Excellency Mme Lindiwe Mabuza.”

Compiled by Nica Richards