Lindiwe Myeza (1935 - )
The Order of the Baobab in
Profile of Lindiwe Myeza
Lindiwe Myeza was born in 1935 in Sophiatown. She matriculated at the Mazenod Catholic High School in Durban.
Her chosen career path reflected her passion for the development and upliftment of her community. She completed a teachers' training diploma at Indaleni Teacher Training College and taught at the Charlestown Secondary School in KwaZulu-Natal until 1961, when she became the administrator of the Baragwanath Nursing College.
Aware of the devastations of apartheid on black communities, Myeza actively participated in the student uprisings of the 1970s. In 1976, Myeza organised medical and other assistance to numerous student activists from Soweto. Well aware of the risk, she provided safe havens to many who were hiding from the security police.
She also worked with the University of the Witwatersrand to provide support to the many black students who were prevented from writing their final examinations. She was also asked to assist in brokering peace negotiations between disputing parties at the Mzimhlope hostel uprising in Soweto, and went on to assist with similar interventions in Tembisa, Vosloorus and Vereeniging. Despite being a woman in a fiercely patriarchal society, she was able to employ her vast and varied skills to mediate successfully between the warring factions.
In 1977, The Star presented her with an award in recognition of her bravery and resourcefulness. In 1981, she became director of the Wilgespruit Fellowship Centre in Roodepoort, a church-based training centre for the unemployed and illiterate.
This centre was also the undercover African National Congress branch of the West Rand. Believing in the need to equip women with skills in order for them to become self-sufficient, she started, in 1983, the Women's Informal Training Initiative, one of the first women's literacy groups.
In 1985, Myeza organised for a group of 200 South African women to attend a United Nations (UN) meeting in Nairobi, which focused on issues such as equality, development and peace. Myeza felt that it was an important event in which South African women should participate. Using air-fare money that she had been saving for herself, she unselfishly sent her daughter and niece in her place. When the delegation returned from Nairobi, Myeza rallied together more than 1 000 women at the Parktonian Hotel to debate the outcomes of the UN meeting and to plan a way forward.
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.
For her outstanding service to the community, the Methodist Church awarded her the Sitiloane Award, an award historically reserved for men. The Giving and Sharing Foundation has recently presented her with the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her immense contribution
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.
She still lives in Soweto and dreams of documenting her rich and varied life as well as the lives of other women who have played a significant role in South African history. In her own words, she is 'retired but not tired'.