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Bertha Gxowa (1934 - )

The Order of Luthuli in

Bertha Gxowa (1934 - ) Awarded for:
Her excellent contribution to the trade unions and political struggle against apartheid.

Profile of Bertha Gxowa

Bertha Nonkumbi Gxowa was born in Germiston on 28 November 1934. She started schooling at Thokoza Primary School where she completed her Junior Certificate in 1950. In 1952, she enrolled at Melville Commercial College and completed a course in typing and bookkeeping.

Her political involvement was influenced by the unions. She was involved in the interactions between employers and employees. Her association with women such as Viola Hashe, Helen Joseph, Violet Weinberg and Lillian Ngoyi had a profound influence on her political life. She joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1951.

The ANC was banned in 1961 while she was serving the conditions of her release from the Central Prison. In 1963, under the Suppression of Communism Act, she was served with a five-year order restricting her to the magisterial district of Germiston. In 1968,she was served with the second restriction order. By the time her second restriction order had expired in 1973, she had lost contact with the ANC. Her political activity was limited to reading the material received from the organisation in exile.

She became extensively involved in church activities and in 1985 she also founded a women’s club which, although apolitical, is involved in voter education. The majority of the members are also registered members of the ANC and community volunteers assisting the South African National Council (SANCA) on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

After February 1990, when the ANC was unbanned, Gxowa, at the request of comrade Walter Sisulu, was approached by the PWV Region Interim Committee to help rebuild the ANC’s Katlehong branch. Together with among others, Khetsi Lehoko, Hazzy Sibanyoni, John Nonjeke and Moses Molane, all from the Congress of South African Trade Unions, she served on the interim committee that organised a successful launch in August 1990. Katlehong became the biggest branch in the country with some 1900 members.

During the first democratic election in 1994, Gxowa was elected to Parliament. She continues to be member of the National Assembly of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa. She served as a member of the Home Affairs and Health parliamentary portfolio committees from 1994 to 2004.

She has been a member of the Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Portfolio Committee since 2005. In the same year, Gxowa joined the Ethics Committee of Parliament. She also serves as the ANC Women’s League national treasurer. Gxowa was part of the ANC’s National List Committee in preparation for the 2005 local government elections.

Social ills have always spurred Gxowa to action. She worked hard as a community volunteer for SANCA.

At the 52nd ANC National Conference in Polokwane, Limpopo, Gxowa became the chairperson of the Electoral Commission.

Bertha Gxowa is a person who works tirelessly for progress in South Africa. She has never been discouraged by her gender status in the face of patriarchy and racial oppression.

Bertha Gxowa was married to the late Cecil Mntukanti Gxowa, and has five children.