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Mama Sylvia Motlagomang ‘Mamza’ Benjamin (Posthumous)

The Order of Luthuli in

Mama Sylvia Motlagomang ‘Mamza’ Benjamin (Posthumous) Awarded for:
Her outstanding contribution to workers’ rights and her gallant fight against injustice. She bravely embraced the cause of disenfranchised workers and women.
Profile of Mama Sylvia Motlagomang ‘Mamza’ Benjamin

Mama Sylvia Motlagomang ‘Mamza’ Benjamin started to work at Stilfontein Gold Mines as an aptitude clerk in 1978. After noticing the shocking working conditions, she was motivated to form a union and joined the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as a Shaft Steward and was later elected as Treasurer of the National Executive Committee.

She was detained several times during the different states of emergency in the country, but this did not deter her at all. Her passion for politics and making a difference in people’s lives persuaded her to join and become a member of different structures.

In 1984, she was one of the founder members of the NUM. Between 1985 and 1997, she served in the underground structures of the United Democratic Fund and civic association.

She served as a councillor in the City of Matlosana from 1994 to 2005, and was very instrumental in launching Matlosana Senior Citizens Association in 2006. In 2010, she was elected to the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress’s Veterans League.

Benjamin became sick in 2011, and was in and out of hospital for some time until her demise on 27 December 2012. All who knew her and had the privilege to work with her, speak in one voice that she was a selfless and fearless leader. She did not discriminate against anyone based on class, age or gender, and was a stern comrade who always put the community and the organisations first. She was a teacher, friend, mentor and mother to many in the movement.

She was a national asset and many stress the point that she was the first and only woman to have served on the Executive Committee of the NUM and was a gender activist who believed in equal treatment for all. Many share the same sentiment that Benjamin was a woman of high calibre and did most of her work voluntarily without expecting any payment or reward.