Freedom fighter, Women's March campaigner Rebecca Kotane dies aged 108

Rebecca Kotane was an active freedom fighter in her own right, notably taking part in the 1956 women's march to the Union Buildings as part of the defiance campaign.

Rebecca Kotane. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Rebecca Kotane, anti-apartheid struggle hero and the wife of late South African Communist Party (SACP) secretary-general Moses Kotane, has passed away at the age of 108.

Kotane passed away on Sunday, 31 January, just a few days before her 109th birthday.

She was an active freedom fighter in her own right, notably taking part in the 1956 women's march to the Union Buildings as part of the defiance campaign.

She was arrested at the march and spent two weeks in detention, sharing a cell with fellow women freedom fighters Albertina Sisulu, Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi and Amina Cachalia.

When her husband left South Africa to go into exile in Tanzania and later Russia in 1963, Kotane remained behind with their child and kept his legacy alive on home soil, becoming the victim of numerous home raids, detention without trial and other forms of harassment.

Moses Kotane died in Moscow, Russia in 1978 and was buried there. The South African government repatriated his remains in 2015 to be reburied in the North West village of Pella.

"Today the name of Moses Kotane cannot be mentioned without at one and the same time mentioning Ma Kotane, a hero of our struggle for liberation and social emancipation in her own right, and vice versa. Since their marriage in 1945, they intimately collaborated in the struggle against colonial and apartheid oppression, in the process helping to build and strengthen the Alliance and various organisations of the people," the SACP said in its tribute to her.

The African National Congress also honoured Kotane.

"We appreciate her sacrifices and the enormous contribution she made in our struggle for liberation. We owe her and her generation a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to repay in our lifetime, the party said.

"The best way to honour her memory is to defend our democracy and consolidate the gains we made since the 1994 democratic breakthrough."

Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, said that women in South Africa continued to be inspired by Kotane's unwavering and bold resolve.

"We will not rest until all forms of injustice, particularly against women and girl-children, are eliminated. We pledge to honour her contribution to our struggle for a better life for all by continuing to strengthen and deepen our democracy and all its instruments."

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