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Ms Violet Jacobeth Seboni (Posthumous)

The Order of the Baobab in

Ms Violet Jacobeth Seboni (Posthumous) Awarded for:
Her excellent contribution to the struggle for the rights of workers and equality for women. She bravely took on the proverbial Goliath corporations and industries to fight for workers’ rights.
Profile of Ms Violet Jacobeth Seboni

Ms Violet Jacobeth Seboni was born on 18 September 1965. She was raised by her grandmother and later her grandmother’s friend in North West.

Although she was poor like many working-class women, her upbringing bred determination, empathy and a vision for a better life for the poor and marginalised. It was at Madibane High School in Diepkloof, Soweto where she developed a passion for activism.

After completing school, Seboni worked in the clothing industry. She was a shop steward in the South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) in her early 20s, in 1989, at a hat-making factory in Johannesburg, where she worked for most of her life. In 1999 she was elected as the first female Chairperson of SACTWU’s East Rand branch. She brought new energy to the branch at a time when there were many battles to save jobs and fight for a living wage.

In 2001, in recognition of her leadership qualities, her fellow shop stewards elected her as Treasurer of SACTWU’s Gauteng region. Later the same year she was elected as the second Deputy President of SACTWU, at the union’s 8th National Congress held in Durban.

Also in 2001, she led a two-week industry wide protected wage-related strike of thousands of clothing workers in Gauteng. She was typically on the picket line almost day and night, led marches and protests in support of the union’s demands and inspired the clothing workers to a historic victory that helped to fundamentally change industrial relations in the industry for the better.

By 2003 she had risen to become Deputy President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, where she led two million workers around the country. Seboni passed on 3 April 2009 in a car accident while on her way to Mafikeng to address an election meeting of the African National Congress Women’s League, during the lead-up to the national general elections.