Graves of SA Struggle Heroines declared Heritage Sites

Soweto - The graves of struggle heroines Charlotte Maxeke, Helen Joseph and Lillian Ngoyi were declared heritage sites in Soweto on Friday.

According to the Department of Arts and Culture, the declaration of the graves into heritage sites kick-starts a five-year project aimed at identifying sites of women who have made a cultural contribution in different spheres of the liberation struggle including the arts, business, politics and armed combat.

The graves of the three women are situated in Avalon in Chiaweo and Nancefield respectively.
Joseph passed away on 25 December 1992 in Johannesburg. Dr. Maxeke passed away on 16 October 1939 and was regarded as everyone's friend and no one's enemy.

Lillian Masediba Ngoyi was born in Pretoria in 1911 to a family of six children, and obtained her primary schooling in Kilnerton. She later enrolled for a nurses training course, but she eventually took up work as a machinist in a clothing factory where she worked from 1945 to 1956.

Ngoyi, along with Joseph, led the women's anti-pass march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956, one of the largest demonstrations staged in South African history.

Speaking at the unveiling of the graves, Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana described the three women as brave stalwarts who stood firm for democracy.

"We are going to continue honouring all the women who played a significant role during the struggle," the minister said.

The minister said they will be working with women leaders in identifying all those who played a significant role during the struggle so they too can be honoured.

"We will be honouring all the women who went to jail for our freedom. They were willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom," the minister said.

She said discussions to honour other women who have contributed to the struggle have started and called on young people to defend the country's hard-earned democracy.

"Young people should play a role in fighting the scourge of poverty that we are experiencing in our country," she said.

According to section 3 (2) of the National Heritage Resources Act no 25 of 1999, graves and burial grounds form part of the national estate that has a significance for present communities and future generations.

"The declaration of the graves of the three women will go a long way in ensuring that our heritage resources are conserved and managed," said Sibongile Van Damme, Chief Executive Officer of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). - BuaNews