Thousands of women channel the spirit of 1956 with march to the Union Buildings

Gauteng Premier David Makhura leads a women's march to Union Buildings to commemorate a National Women's Day.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura leads a women's march to Union Buildings to commemorate a National Women's Day.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

Thousands of women, mostly in ANC regalia, have descended on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to commemorate the iconic women’s march against the draconian apartheid pass laws that took place exactly 62 years ago on this day.

The commemorative event started with a symbolic march from the Living Women's Monument on Lillian Ngoyi Square in Pretoria to the Union Buildings, where the main provincial Women’s Day event was being held.

Key figures taking part in the march included Gauteng premier David Makhura and MEC for sport, arts, culture and recreation Faith Mazibuko.

The monument boasts the statues of Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and  Sophie de Bruyn, leaders of the original August 9 1956 women's march to the Unions Buildings.

It is estimated that 20 000 women of all races in groups of up to three, as large groups were banned, carried 14 000 petitions on the negative effects of the pass laws on their lives for presentation to Prime Minister JG Strijdom.

Incredibly, this year’s commemoration falls on a Thursday, the weekday on which the original march took place more than six decades ago.

The Gauteng government has said this year’s commemoration of Women’s Day was of special significance as it was the year of the “triple centenary”.

Spokesperson Nomazwe Ntlokwana said besides the birth of Mama Albertina Sisulu, the country is also celebrating and commemorating the birth of Tata Nelson Mandela as well as the formation of the Bantu Women’s League.

Women who took part in the commemorative march, led by the Eldoraigne drum majorettes, lamented the fact that women have become targets of rape, domestic violence and other forms of abuse.

“It is a very important event to remember but what is happening to women these days is horrific and depressing. Women, young and old, are raped, beaten up and killed. These are the issues that women are grappling with today, something that was hardly heard of 60 years ago,” Sophy Skosana from KwaThema in the east rand said.

The 43-year-old said she was also pained by the way women, especially young women, abuse alcohol and drugs.

She said men were not respecting women these days because some women do not respect themselves.

“They drink more than their fathers; they do not dress in a respectable way and go to taverns until the wee hours of the morning. These are social ills that we need to fight against to restore the dignity of women,” she said.

Early this month, women marched to the Union Buildings to voice their grievances about the scourge of women abuse.

They refused to hand over the memorandum to higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor and demanded that it be received by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who eventually arrived late in the evening to accept the memorandum.

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