Remarkable woman and freedom fighter

From an early age Vuyiswa "Tiny" Nokwe showed a keenness for knowledge, first in the fables told to children before bed and later in reading children's books.

Born Vuyiswa Malangabi on March 4 1929 Nokwe died on October 24 after a short illness.

Nokwe recalled with fond memories how her mother cooked "smiley" - the head of a sheep or pig - which she would help sell on weekends.

This was to supplement the family income and enable her, with scholarship assistance offered to "bright" children, to pass her matric at a high school in Langa. After that she studied at Lovedale College in Alice, Eastern Cape.

She continued her studies at what was then the only tertiary level institution for Africans - the University College of Fort Hare.

Her nickname, Tiny, stuck with her when she completed her BSc degree in 1951 and her BEd in 1952.

It was during her student days that her captivating mirth but firm resolve attracted the man who was to be her husband and hero, Advocate Dumalisile Nokwe.

She showed her leadership qualities when the warden of the women's hostel at Fort Hare, imposed a curfew by locking the doors at 7pm "in order to stop pregnancies among students".

Nokwe and her co-leaders successfully mounted a campaign that led to the overturning of this restriction.

She left Cape Town after her marriage and settled with her husband Duma in the now famous township of Orlando West, where they had their five children.

From 1955 he husband was involved in the marathon treason trial. He left home early in the morning and returned late at night, attending meetings after court proceedings as general secretary of the ANC.

"Vuyi" as her husband affectionately called her, resolutely brought up the children and found time to find various jobs to supplement the meagre family income, and yet the children never felt deprived and had everything they needed.

In 1964 she and the late Alfred Nzo's wife went into exile, following her husband who had left earlier. They settled in Lusaka, Zambia. She took up a teaching post and taught until they returned to South Africa.

In 1978 the Nokwes lost their father in Zambia. She soldiered on and saw all of them complete their tertiary education and start their own families.

They moved to Cape Town in 1991 and her children bought her a house in Langa township (where she grew up).

Her role as partner and supporter of the first black advocate to qualify at Wits University, as well as being an active member of the ANC and its Women's League, were simply heroic.

She participated in numerous demonstrations against the pass laws and in support of harassed and frequently arrested leaders of the ANC.

She belongs to the pioneers who, in real life, fought against racism and actually befriended whites who were ready to sacrifice for their black compatriots. This had a great impact on the generations of the 1950s and beyond.

The outstanding quality of selfless dedication and a willingness to serve in whatever capacity was the hallmark of this remarkable woman and freedom fighter. She showed that one could maintain dignity and still be a fearless fighter.

Nokwe is survived by her five children, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

She will be cremated tomorrow in Johannesburg. The service will be at the Rhema Church in Randburg from 9am.