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Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe

The Order of Luthuli in

Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe Awarded for:
Her tenacious fight for freedom and her steadfast support of incarcerated freedom fighters. She challenged the injustices meted out against the majority of South Africans.
Profile of Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe

Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe was born on 27 July 1927 in Hlobane at the then Natal province (now called KwaZulu-Natal).

In a protracted struggle to have her beloved husband, Mr Robert Sobukwe freed, Sobukwe endured untold suffering and dismissal of the racist apartheid regime, which she gallantly challenged through her numerous letters to the likes of then Minister of Justice, Jimmy Kruger, and Prime Minister BJ Vorster, about the conditions of her husband’s incarceration on Robben Island.

As a health practitioner and an activist in her own right, she single-handedly and repeatedly brought his deteriorating health to the fore, and demanding his release. When all her efforts failed, she appealed to Vorster to allow Sobukwe to leave South Africa permanently on an exit permit together with his family.

Vorster refused this too, and she then asked that she be allowed to stay on Robben Island with Sobukwe, to oversee his health herself, but Vorster refused.

None of her multiple requests for meetings with the authorities were ever granted. Instead, Vorster referred Sobukwe to the then Minister of Justice, Petrus Cornelius Pelser, who in turn maintained the status quo by rejecting all her appeals.

Sobukwe epitomises the collective experiences of many black women throughout the continent, whose roles and contributions in the liberation struggle remain unacknowledged, written out of popular historical narratives, biographical memory and national consciousness.