Parliament’s Executive Authority, National Assembly Speaker Ms Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Ms Thandi Modise, on behalf of all the Members of Parliament, expresses deep sadness at the passing this morning of exemplary veteran of our struggle Ruth Mompati.
Ms Mompati has a long history of struggling for and contributing to bringing about our democracy. When she was forced out of her career as a teacher, she became a typist in the law firm of Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela. She also joined the African National Congress around this time and the ANC Women’s League. She was actively involved in the 1952 Defiance Campaign - the first mass, non-racial campaign against apartheid laws – and the Women’s Anti-Pass Law March to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956. She had to go into exile in 1962 and served the ANC in various capacities in Tanzania, Zambia and the United Kingdom. Ms Mompati was one of the first women members of Umkhonto we Sizwe. In 1990 she was part of the ANC delegation that began negotiating the peaceful transition to democracy with the National Party government.
In 1994 she was elected to the National Assembly of the first democratic Parliament. On 27 May 1994, she made her first statement to Parliament in the debate which followed President Nelson Mandela’s first address to a joint sitting of Parliament.
“I stand here with a feeling of excitement and I am full of emotion, because never in my struggles when I shouted ‘Freedom in my lifetime!’ did I really think what has happened would be in my own lifetime,” she said, opening her statement which went on to cover issues of women’s emancipation and the lack of opportunity in the rural areas.
During her time at Parliament, Ms Mompati served on a number of committees, including Constitutional Affairs; Agriculture, Water and Forestry; Education; Welfare, Gender Equality and the ad hoc Joint Committee on Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women. She resigned as a Member of the National Assembly on 1 September 1996 to take up the position of Ambassador to Switzerland.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to Ms Mompati’s family and friends. Today, a gallant giant of our struggle has departed. A formidable leader, whose selfless and tireless struggle spanned decades. Today, we bid farewell to a soldier, a negotiator, a parliamentarian, a diplomat, a mother and a mentor. We bid farewell to a political activist, whose lifelong commitment to the cause of the South African people will continue as an inspiration for generations to come. Our movement and lives are indeed richer today for having had Mme Ruth in our midst. Go well our beloved mother. Today, at last, you can rest.