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RIP Amina Cachalia, Anti-apartheid Activist and Struggle Icon (1930 – 2013)

When Hope and History RhymeAmina Cachalia, well-loved anti-apartheid activist and struggle hero, has passed away at the age of 82.

Cachalia, who was a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress from a young age, was a key founder of the Federation of South African Women (Fedsaw). She was also one of the leaders of the 1956 women’s march against pass laws.

In a recent BBC World Service interview at her home in Johannesburg, she spoke to Lerato Mbele about growing up and realising that she had to take a stand against injustice in South Africa: “My father instructed us about us being Muslim…but much later was when I realised I was Indian. When I went to a school for Indians only in Fordsburg…they called us coolies.” She first heard the derogatory term at a nearby Afrikaans school.

Cachalia was the ninth out of eleven children and, as the youngest daughter but also because she was born with a heart defect, she said she was spoilt. When she realised there was something wrong in her country, she decided, in spite of her frailness, to become an activist. Her father always told her that she should stand her ground, fight for herself and her country, and not be made to feel inferior because of the way she looked. Cachalia’s life story is also told in her autobiography, When Hope and History Rhyme, due to be released at the end of Febraury by Pan Macmillan.

Listen to the podcast:

Amina Cachalia BBC

Tributes have poured in for the late ANC veteran, including one from former president Thabo Mbeki, who was reported by City Press as having said South Africa “needed people like her to really recall what our struggle was about”. The paper also published a list of 10 essential things that everyone must know about Amina Cachalia:

» Born in 1930 in Johannesburg to a politically conscious family

» Father closely associated with Gandhi and the passive resistance campaign of 1907

Tributes have poured in for anti-apartheid activist and ANC veteran Amina Cachalia, who died on Thursday.

Cachalia, a long-time friend of Nelson Mandela, was 82.

The ANC and the DA both praised Cachalia for her role in the struggle against apartheid.

“Hamba kahle, Amina. We will miss you,” stated the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory on Thursday.

Cachalia’s activism began at an early age when she became a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress, and then the ANC. In 1948 she was one of the founders of the Women’s Progressive Union.

Tributes on Twitter:

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