Women’s month

Celebrating women in history and those making history


Zenzile Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a South African singer and civil rights activist.In the 1960s, she was the first artist from Africa to popularize African music around the world. She is best known for the song “Pata Pata”, first recorded in 1957 and released in the U.S. in 1967. She recorded and toured with many popular artists, such as Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, and her former husband Hugh Masekela.

Makeba campaigned against the South African system of apartheid. The South African government responded by revoking her passport in 1960 and her citizenship and right of return in 1963. As the apartheid system crumbled she returned home for the first time in 1990.

Makeba died of a heart attack on 9 November 2008 after performing in a concert in Italy organised to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation local to the region of Campania.

On 16 October 1999, Miriam Makeba was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In January 2000, her album, Homeland, produced by Cedric Samson and Michael Levinsohn for the New York City based record label Putumayo World Music, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best World Music Album category. She worked closely with Graça Machel-Mandela, who at the time was the South African first lady, for children suffering from HIV/AIDS,child soldiers, and the physically handicapped.

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In 2001, she was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold by the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN) in Berlin, “for outstanding services to peace and international understanding”. She shared the Polar Music Prize with Sofia Gubaidulina. The prize is regarded as Sweden’s foremost musical honour. In 2004, Makeba was voted 38th in the Top 100 Great South Africans. Makeba started a worldwide farewell tour in 2005, holding concerts in all of those countries that she had visited during her working life.

From 25 to 27 September 2009, a tribute show to Makeba entitled Hommage à Miriam Makeba and curated by Grammy Award-winning Beninoise singer-songwriter and activistAngélique Kidjo for the Festival d’Ile de France, was held at the Cirque d’hiver in Paris.The same show but with the English title of Mama Africa: Celebrating Miriam Makebawas held at the Barbican in London on 21 November 2009. Mama Africa, a documentary film about the life of Miriam Makeba, co-written and directed by Finnish film directorMika Kaurismäki, was released in 2011.On 4 March 2013 Google honored her with a doodle on the homepage.

Mama Africa, a musical about Miriam Makeba was produced in South Africa by University of Missouri Des Lee Endowed Professor of Theater, Dr. Niyi Coker. Originally titledZenzi!, The musical premiered to a sold out crowd at Cape Town, South Africa on 26 May 2016. It will debut in the United States with performances scheduled in Saint Louis, Missouri and New York City from September 14, 2016 through December 2016 with the musical returning to South Africa in February 2017 for celebration of what would have been Miriam Makeba’s 85th birthday.

The Pretoria campus of the Lycée Jules Verne, École Miriam Makeba, is named after her.



Women’s month

Celebrating women in history and those making history


Helen Beatrice Joseph (née Fennell) (8 April 1905 – 25 December 1992) was a South African anti-apartheid activist. Born in Sussex, England. Helen graduated with a degree in English from the University of London in 1927, and then departed for India where she taught for three years at Mahbubia School, a school for girls in Hyderabad. In about 1930 she left India for South Africa. She settled in Durban where she met and married dentist Billie Joseph.

In 1951 Helen first met Solly Sachs, when she applied for the job of Secretary-Director of the Medical Aid Society of the Transvaal Clothing Society. At the time Solly Sachs was the head of the Garment Workers’ Union.

She was a founder member of the Congress of Democrats, and one of the leaders who read out the clauses of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People in Kliptown in 1955. Appalled by the plight of black women, she played a pivotal role along with Lillian Ngoyi in the formation of the Federation of South African Women and with the organisation’s leadership, spearheaded march of 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against pass laws on August 9, 1956. This day is still celebrated as South Africa’s Women’s Day.

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The treason trial and house arrest

Joseph’s opposition to the State had not gone unnoticed, she was a defendant at the 1956 Treason Trial. Justice Rumpff stated: “On all the evidence presented to this court and on our findings of fact, it is impossible for this court to come to the conclusion that the African National Congress has acquired or adopted a policy to overthrow the state by violence, that is, in the sense that the masses had to be prepared or conditioned to commit direct acts of violence against the state.”

Although Joseph was arrested on a charge of high treason in December 1956, then banned in 1957. The treason trial dragged on for four years and she was acquitted in 1961. In spite of her acquittal, on 13 October 1962, Helen became the first person to be placed under house arrest under the Sabotage Act that had just been introduced by the apartheid government. She narrowly escaped death more than once, surviving bullets shot through her bedroom and a bomb wired to her front gate. Her last banning order was lifted when she was 80 years old.

In his submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, secret service operative Paul Erasmus stated that from about 1978 till late in the 1980s he and his colleagues on many occasions damaged the property of Mrs Joseph by throwing stones through the windows of her house, made telephone threats, fired shots at the house but did not intend to injure any person, ordered and caused unwanted supplies to be delivered at her house, poured paint remover over her motor car as well as a motor car of Ann Hughes when the latter visited her. The apartheid state’s fear of her was puzzling:

“How a weary old girl, an ou tannie like me can be a threat to state security only they can say.” Joseph is quoted. From the late 1970’s Christmas Day was “Open Day” at Helen Joseph’s house. Those involved in the anti-apartheid struggle had an open invitation to visit her home. All comrades brought food, and at 12 noon everyone raised their glasses to those on Robben Island (and apparently the Robben Islanders were aware of the ritual). On December 25, 1992, Joseph was in hospital and the venue moved to 11 Plantation Road, The Gardens. Robben Island’s prisoners had been released, and those present raised their glasses to Helen, who would die shortly thereafter.

She was admitted to the Order of Simon of Cyrene in 1992, this is the highest honour the Anglican Church of Southern Africa bestows on its lay members of the church who have provided outstanding service.

Places named after her include the former Davenport Road in Glenwood, KwaZulu-Natal, the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg, a student residence at Rhodes University,Grahamstown and a road in Rustenberg. The Road Name Change Act was initiated by the South African government in 2007 to rename streets, such as Davenport Road, that have names linked to pre-1994 colonialism.

Helen Joseph died on the 25 December 1992 at the age of 87.

Authors birthdays: August

Sharon Mills Draper (born August 21, 1948) is an American children’s writer and a professional educator, the 1997 National Teacher of the Year. She is a six-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award for books about the African-American experience. She may be known best for the Hazelwood and Jericho series and for her historical novel Copper Sun. Other books include Double Dutch, Out of My Mind and Romiette and Julio.

Draper won the Margaret A. Edwards Award from American Library Association in 2015. The annual award recognizes one writer and a particular body of work for “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature”. The judges cited six novels that were published from 1994 to 2007: Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire, and Darkness Before Dawn (the Hazelwood trilogy) The Battle of Jericho, November Blues, and Copper Sun.

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Fire from the Rock has been selected by the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Committee as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People for 2008 and is honored on the 2008 New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age.

We Beat the Street is listed on the New York Times Bestseller List and is on VOYA’s Non-Fiction Honor List for 2006 and is honored on the 2006 New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age.

Copper Sun received the 2007 Coretta Scott King Award, was named as one of the Top Ten Historical Fiction Books for Youth by Booklist was nominated for the 2007 NAACP Image Award for Literature, and received the Ohioana Award for Young Adult Literature. Copper Sun is also a CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, received the Heartland Award for Excellence in YA Literature, was named as an IRA Notable Book for a Global Society and was named as Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal.Copper Sun is also listed on the New York Times Bestseller List.

November Blues received the 2008 Coretta Scott King Award and is honored on the 2008 New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age.

Sassy: Little Sister Is Not My Name! received the 2009 Parents Choice Award.

  • Hélène Kaziende –  15 August 15, 1967
  • Gérard Aké Loba – 15 August 1927 – died 3 August 2012
  • Wallace Henry Thurman – 16 August 1902–died 1934
  • Samuel Alfred Beadle – 17 August 1857 –died 1932
  • Charlotte Louise Bridges Forten Grimké – 17 August 1837 –died 23 July 1914
  • Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. – 17 August 1887 – died 10 June 1940
  • Mwatabu S. Okantah – 18 August 1952
  • Mat Johnson – 19 August 1970
  • Albert Lincoln “Al” Roker Jr.  – 20 August 1954
  • Sharon Mills Draper – 21 August 1948
  • Yambo Ouologuem – 22 August 22, 1940
  • Tchicaya U Tam’si – 25 August 1931 – died 22 April 1988
  • Sherley Anne Williams – 25 August 1944 – died 6 July 1999
  • Thando Mgqolozana – 27 August 1983
  • William Modisane – 28 August 1923— died 1 March 1986
  • Rita Frances Dove – 28 August 1952
  • Carlene Hatcher Polite – 28 August 1932 –died 7 December 2009
  • Barry Streek – 30 August 1948 – died 21 July 2006#
  • Lorenzo Thomas – 31 August 1944 –died 4 July 2005
  • Elvania Namukwaya Zirimu – 31 August 1938 – died 31 October 1979
  • Leroy Eldridge Cleaver – 31 August 1935 – died 1 May 1998
  • Falaba Issa Traoré – 1930 – died 8 August 2003
  • Sibusiso Nyembezi 1919- died 2000

Women’s month

Celebrating women in history and those making women


Kopano Matlwa Mabaso A doctor, an author, and a mother, Kopano Matlwa Mabaso has accomplished an enormous amount at a young age. Here she sits down with photographer Gary Van Wyk to talk about her love for the written word, her passion for affecting social change as a doctor and how expression through writing sustains her.

Dr Kopano Matlwa Mabaso is a South African Medical Doctor currently undertaking a DPhil (PhD) in Population Health at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Mabaso’s research interests lie in health policy and systems research, particularly with regards to the strengthening of health systems in reform.

Mabaso is the Founder and Co-Director of Transitions Foundation an organization that seeks to help South Africa’s youth transition from hopelessness to personal fulfillment.

Mabaso is a published fiction writer and the winner of the European Literary Award (2007) and joint winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa (2010).

Her two novels Coconut and Spilt Milk are social commentaries on post-apartheid South Africa and between them, have been translated into 4 languages.

In 2008 and 2009 she was singled out as one of 300 young South Africans ‘you must take to lunch’ by the Mail & Guardian Newspaper.

Kopano is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, was selected as a Young Physician Leader by the Interacademies Medial Panel in 2014, forms part of the 2015 class of Tutu Fellows and is one of the Aspen Institute 2015 New Voices Fellows.

Authors birthday: August

Thando Mgqolozana (born Cape Town, South Africa, 27 August 1983) is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, a recipient of the Golden Key International Honour for Scholastic Achievement, and one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans of 2010.He has previously worked as a researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council and is now based at the University of Cape Town.

Mgqolozana is the author of Hear Me Alone (2011), A Man Who Is Not a Man (2009), a novel that enjoyed critical success and was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and Unimportance (2014).

  • 1.Sharon Mills Draper – 21 August 1948
  • 1.Yambo Ouologuem – 22 August 22, 1940
  • 2.Tchicaya U Tam’si – 25 August 1931 – died 22 April 1988
  • 1.Sherley Anne Williams – 25 August 1944 – died 6 July 1999
  • 3.Thando Mgqolozana – 27 August 1983
  • 4.William Modisane – 28 August 1923— died 1 March 1986
  • 2.Rita Frances Dove – 28 August 1952
  • 2.Carlene Hatcher Polite – 28 August 1932 –died 7 December 2009
  • 5.Barry Streek – 30 August 1948 – died 21 July 2006
  • 3.Elvania Namukwaya Zirimu – 31 August 1938 – died 31 October 1979
  • 4.Leroy Eldridge Cleaver – 31 August 1935 – died 1 May 1998
  • 3.Lorenzo Thomas – 31 August 1944 –died 4 July 2005
  • 6.Falaba Issa Traoré – 1930 – died 8 August 2003
  • 7.Sibusiso Nyembezi 1919- died 2000

Women’s month

Celebrating women in history and those making history


Thuli Madonsela South Africa’s courageous public protector since 2009, Madonsela has stood firm as she fulfils her mandate to strengthen constitutional democracy and promote good governance. Her work ethic and dedication to truth has brought credibility back to her office after it was tainted by the Oilgate scandal during the tenure of the previous incumbent, Lawrence Mushwana.

Madonsela has been involved in community and social justice issues since the 1980s and in her early career was a teacher and union organiser. As a human rights lawyer and expert on equality and policy, she was part of the team that drafted the country’s constitution in 1996. She gave up a scholarship at Harvard to do this.

Madonsela helped draw up many statutes enacted since 1994 and was the co-architect of the policy framework that formed the basis of the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities. She has written extensively and her achievements include co-authoring the bench book for equality courts and a handbook on family law.

The Press Club last year named Madonsela Newsmaker of the Year. She was in the headlines when she was threatened with arrest after investigating the police for maladministration.

Madonsela is also involved in international human rights work, participating in delegations to conferences abroad and the drafting of country reports.

Women’s month

Celebrating women in history and those making history


Santie Botha is chancellor of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth – at 48, the youngest chancellor in South Africa – and serves on the board of Tiger Brands Limited and Famous Brands. She is a South African marketing pioneer who played a role in the success of the 2010 World Cup as head of marketing at FIFA sponsor MTN.

Botha holds a degree in economics from Stellenbosch University. She started her career at Unilever in London and South Africa and then moved to Absa – at 34, the youngest member of the group’s board. There, as group executive director, she successfully branded the newly amalgamated bank, launching an aggressive marketing campaign to win over its own employees as well as its customers, and attacking the image of a bank as stuffy and bureaucratic. She was also responsible for its e-commerce programme.

Botha joined MTN as chief marketing officer in 2003 and soon made a splash when she painted OR Tambo Airport yellow (the brand’s signature colour). During her time at MTN, she helped embed the brand in Africa and the Middle East. But her main legacy was that a company born in Africa became the first-ever global sponsor of the FIFA World Cup.

Botha has won a slew of awards, including the 2010 Businesswoman of the Year from the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa, Marketer of the Year in 2002, The Star Top 10 Businesspeople in South Africa 2003 and Young Business Person of the Year in 1998.

Botha is one of South Africa’s top 10 wealthiest women.

The role of a chancellor is traditionally that of a figurehead, but Botha has said she plans to play an active role in developing the institution as a place of learning and as a brand.

Women’s month

Celebrating women in history and those making history


Ntsako Mkhabela is a theatre writer, director and producer with honours degrees in dramatic arts and development sociology from the University of the Witwatersrand. Inspired by Chinua Achebe who tasks the writer with the role of re-imagining alternative realities for society Mkhabela’s work tries to link the creative process of the arts and the study of society. She firmly believes that the art and the world around can not be separated and that as an artist she has a responsibility to the world around her.

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Mkhabela has written several plays which have been performed at national festivals. In 2008 her presentation of By the Apricot Trees received the best graduating directing student award at the Wits School of the arts. Mkhabela also represented the school as the Wits presentation at the National arts Festival in 2009 with her play Sis Dolls. Mkhabela was part of the Writers on stage Windybrow programme where she developed and directed By the Apricot Tress. Mkhabela has not only worked as a writer and director but has also done work as a lighting designer, stage manager and producer for theatre. Mkhabela is currently working on a number of plays “the smell of rose”, ” the sound of silence” and :emaweni”.

Mkhabela believes directing is an art of humility. The craft relies on the director’s ability to tap into the talents and passions of the team in translating and transforming the vision or hunch in the mind of the director into a tangible, beautiful staged art owned by the team. The isolated yet collective nature of the craft fascinates her.

Mkhabela is director of Miyela – a youth civil society organisation working to get young people to recognize their role and responsibility as active citizens, the organisations rund tutoring programs in under performing schools and launched the Mzansi spelling bee in 2012.

Word of the day: Lenient 

Say it: le-nyent

Part of speech: Adjective

Definition:Allowing a lot of freedom and not punishing bad behavior in a strong way not harsh, severe, or strict.

Etymology: Latin

Synonyms:Merciful, Clement, Sparing, Forgiving, Forbearing, Tolerant, Moderate

Use in a sentence:A teacher who is lenient with students who have misbehaved.


Word of the day:Taekwondo

Say it:ti-kwan-ˈdo

Part of speech: Noun

Definition: A style of fighting that originated in Korea and that uses kicks and punches but no weapons.

Etymology: Korean

Synonyms: Aikido,Jiu-Jitsu,Karate

Use in a sentence:For several years he practised Taekwondo and later taught at a martial arts school he opened in Brisbane.