A fruit basket and carrot cake were used by an Eastern Cape politician yesterday to defuse a political blunder that saw Port Elizabeth antiapartheid activist Lillian Diedericks’s name omitted this week from the 60th anniversary celebrations of the 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
The famous march, which is celebrated on Women’s Day on August 9, took place when 20000 women marched to the Union Buildings to marched to the Union Buildings to protest at the seat of government to register their rejection of institutionalised racism.
Diedericks, 90, was at the forefront of the 1956 march along with struggle icons Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi and Sophia de Bruyn.
But the Women’s Living Heritage Monument, which was unveiled in Pretoria on Women’s Day, only included statues of Moosa, Joseph, Ngoyi and De Bruyn.
Diedericks is adamant she is not after any limelight, and that she is merely seeking historical justice.
Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi visited Diedericks’s Gelvandale home yesterday, offering her a peace token – a fruit basket and a R39.99 SPAR carrot cake.
“We felt responsible as [the] government. We are where we are because of her role in terms of articulating a legacy of freedom for women in this country,” Sihlwayi said.
She said the government owed Diedericks an explanation and the mistake had been noted at the highest level of government.
“We will be in contact with her to start the process of correcting the matter,” Sihlwayi said.
She would not say how the government would go about fixing the bungle.
Diedericks has a photograph of the march in which she is clearly seen standing next to Moosa, Joseph, Ngoyi and De Bruyn.
The poses of the four other women in the picture resemble the statues unveiled in Pretoria by President Jacob Zuma earlier this week.
Diedericks commended Sihlwayi yesterday for coming in person to apologise.
“It really should not have taken my utterances in [The Herald] for anyone to come and visit me, but I must commend the MEC for coming to rectify what had happened.”
Diedericks said she would hold Sihlwayi to her word that it would not happen again.
“Her being here showed that she is willing to rectify it and for that I am very happy, but as long as she takes this situation further to make sure that it does not happen again,” Diedericks said.
She said the freedom she fought for should not be taken for granted.
Asked about the fruit basket and carrot cake as a peace offering, Diedericks said: “As long as it is not poisoned, I am happy for the gesture.”