Rita Ndzanga was passionate about economic emancipation of women: Mokonyane

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The African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee member, Nomvula Mokonyane says late struggle veteran, Rita Ndzanga will be remembered as an activist for the emancipation and right of workers and women.

Ndzanga, who served in the first, second, and third democratic Parliament passed away at the age of 89.

In 2004, she was ordered the Order of Luthuli in Silver Awarded for her lifetime contribution to the struggle for workers’ rights and to the realisation of a non-racial, non-sexist, free, and democratic South Africa.

Mokonyane says Ndzanga was a self-less woman, self-less about the plight of rural women and committed to the safety and security of women.

“She was part of the community and civic movement in Soweto, working with us and Sister Bernard (Ncube). Setting up women’s projects for food security, childcare facilities, literacy programs and most importantly MaNzanga was a very strong freedom fighter against apartheid in all its forms. She was tortured, and she was in prison when her husband, an activist, was also killed. She served a lot of time in solitary confinement. She was an organiser. We learned a lot from women like her from the ground from Tafelkop to Tumaole to the Eastern Cape border regions assisting and guiding women in how to get organised. She died being very passionate about the economic emancipation of women.”

Mokonyane adds that younger women can learn from her perseverance, consistency, and forthrightness.

Loyal member

ANC Women’s League President, Bathabile Dlamini says, ”She was a strong, loyal member of the ANC and she was also a firebrand, fearless and was an all-rounder because she worked in the unions. She was in the Federation of Transvaal Women and an activist. She worked with women like Sister Bernard Ncube, and Mam Winnie Mandela. They were very close with Mam Winnie Mandela.”

 AUDIO: Bathabile Dlamini remembers Rita Ndzanga :


Ndzanga was born in 1933 in Ventersdorp in the North West and did her schooling at the Bantu High School in Johannesburg.

As a young woman, Ndzanga became an organiser for the South African Railways and Harbour Union.  During the 1950s, she was involved in the formation of the South African Congress of Trade Unions.

Because of her union and political activism, Ndzanga was banned and prohibited from attending any political gathering for five years in 1964. In 1969, Ndzanga was detained under the Terrorism Act and kept in jail for 18 months, after which she was banned and restricted to Senaoane for a further five years.

In October 1976, Ndzanga was detained and charged with recruiting young students for military training. She suffered a major blow when her husband, Lawrence Ndzanga, died in detention in January 1977.

Undeterred, Ndzanga went back to the union movement in 1980 as organiser for the General and Allied Worker’s Union, an organisation that became a driving force in the founding of the Congress of South African Trade Unions in 1985.

After the unbanning of the ANC, Ndzanga was elected as the Chairperson and Treasurer of the Senaoane branch of the ANC Women’s League, today known as the Lawrence Ndzanga Branch.