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‘Someone Who Embodied Humility’ – ANC Lauds Struggle Stalwart Lillian Diedericks

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA : Anti-apartheid struggle heroine and ANC veteran Lillian Diedericks passed away on 21 December 2021. Diedericks was part of the 1956 march by more than 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in defiance of pass laws. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Eugene Coetzee)

Struggle stalwart Lillian Diedericks has been remembered for her role in building South African trade unions and her fight against apartheid.

Diedericks’ death was announced on Tuesday. She was 96.

The ANC in the Eastern Cape said Diedericks’ death had left a void because of her courageous spirit and historic contribution to the province, especially in Nelson Mandela Bay.

“The ANC has lost a revered leader and constant reminder of dedication and selflessness. Someone who embodied humility. This is a woman who was one of the founders of the Federation of South African Women,” spokesperson Gift Ngqondi said on Wednesday.

“She led the front in the early 50s, inspiring many leaders. She has left a huge void that threads our history of suffering under apartheid. She was a leader who had many struggles and led the trade union movement in Nelson Mandela Bay. We have lost a stalwart and a committed cadre who loved this country.”

Diedericks was awarded the Order of Luthuli in 2018 by President Cyril Ramaphosa to honour her contribution to the struggle against apartheid.

She was raised in Gqeberha and, like many South Africans, forced to move from her home in New Brighton because of the Group Areas Act.

She was active in the trade union movement with the Food and Canning Workers Union.

Diedericks played a role in founding the Federation of South African Women. This was the organisation that led thousands of women to the Union Buildings in a march against the expansion of the pass laws in 1956.

She and five other women faced treason charges in the 1950s for a protest march against the Port Elizabeth mayor. The group was later acquitted in 1961.

She was also banned for five years by the apartheid government in the mid-1960s.


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