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Mama Dora Tamana (Posthumous)

The Order of Luthuli in

Mama Dora Tamana (Posthumous) Awarded for:
Her sustained and brave fight against unjust laws and promoting the rights of workers. She consistently pushed back against the injustices meted out on the disenfranchised.
Profile of Mama Dora Tamana

Mama Dora Tamana was a true activist and an all-rounder of all alliance formations. She was a unionist and led workers actively involved in the African National Congress (ANC). She joined the Communist Party at a very young age, inspired by the evictions she suffered with her family and community. She needed to fight the oppressive regime for dispossessing them. Tamana was a founding member of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) and was elected its first National Secretary in 1954.

The FEDSAW Congress in 1954 adopted the Women Charter as a lobbying and guiding document to advance women struggles. They understood that the struggle for freedom had to be fought side by side with the struggle for women emancipation. She believed in the unity of women in advancing their struggle, hence she was part of the diverse women and organisations that came together to form the FEDSAW.

As a communist, Tamana participated in the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL). She knew that the views of the working class and the poor needed to find expression in the ANCWL. She never gave up on advancing women’s struggles. She organised her community and women in defiance campaigns against pass laws that limited people’s movement in the land of their birth.

Tamana understood that the South African struggle for liberation was interlinked with all the oppressed peoples of the world. It is for that reason that she and other women embarked on an international tour to mobilise support against the oppressive apartheid regime. They enlightened the world about the atrocities of the regime on black people and women in particular.

When they returned from the international tour, she and five other women were listed under the Suppression of Communism Act and in April 1955 she was banned from participating in political gatherings and meetings for five years.

She was brave and ready for the consequences, but more determined to end the oppressive regime and its laws. When women were going from Cape Town, where she was based, to Pretoria to participate in the historic 1956 Women’s March, Tamana had inspired them and they used trains without giving up.

In the 1960s she served two jail sentences but she never gave up on the Struggle. Even when she suffered poor health she still continued to talk to women at different events and urged them to continue to fight. She passed on in 1983.