Tributes to Black Sash Stalwarts

The Black Sash would like to pay tribute to all former Sashers, Trustees, staff members and friends who have contributed to its work and legacy. We appreciate every contribution in the journey to making human rights real.

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It is with great sadness that the Black Sash has learnt of the passing of Mr Sipho Bani. He was 90 years old. 

The Black Sash would like to extend our sincerest condolences to Mrs Bani and the rest of the family.

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Diana Davis, one of the very earliest members of the Black Sash, has passed away in Cape Town after a long and energetic, as well as fun-filled life. She hosted the first Port Elizabeth meeting of the Black Sash in 1955, and remained active and interested in it there and in other places where she lived.

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Rodney Davenport, noted historian, defender of civil rights, enthusiastic mountain walker, and one of the earliest and most supportive ‘associate members’ of the Black Sash, has died in Cape Town on 2 July 2016.

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Val Rose-Christie’s death on 14 July 2015, three days after her 87th birthday, brought to a close a life dedicated to care for others, and to the quest for justice for all.  She is described as feisty, brave, outspoken, and also as warm-hearted, friendly and fun.  In the Black Sash we knew her as an unstoppable monitor of abuses of people’s rights, as an activist determined to oppose forced removals, police raids, mass arrests and detention without trial.

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Pretoria-born Nan joined the Constantia branch of the Black Sash when our family moved to Bergvliet in about 1980. Always a committed Anglican and supporter of the then PFP she felt South Africa’s injustices strongly and was pleased to join the Sash.

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Black Sash Trust Regional Manager, Western Cape from 2001 - 2013.  
Dearest Leonie;  You joined our Black Sash family just over a decade ago. You saw our organisation through many incarnations as it changed direction, strategy and size.

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Anne Finsen, who was a founder member of the Black Sash, died this week at the age of 94. She joined the Black Sash in 1956. In the early days she was involved in the work of the organisation in all sorts of ways. This part of her life is shown wonderfully on the video that was made of the first Sashers. 

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Peggy was a longtime member of the Sash, joining in 1958 and active first in Port Elizabeth where she played a prominent role in the campaign to support political detainees, and latterly in Grahamstown where she and her General Practitioner husband had retired. For years she worked in the Grahamstown Advice Office, monitoring and cleaning and sorting files. Prior to the first Democratic Election she travelled miles as part of the team educating first time voters. She was recognised as a "veteran of the struggle" in 1994 and along with others she travelled to Johannesburg for a reception with Nelson Mandela.

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An artist, mother of six, Black Sash member, founder of a craft co-operative and wife of a former mayor - the many talents and interests of Rosalind Thesen (nee Newdigate) were celebrated at a memorial service for her here on Monday, March 26.

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Joy Roberts, a stalwart of the Natal Midlands Black Sash, and Secretary of the branch for many years died on Christmas day in Durban at the age of 85. She will be greatly missed by many. As well as her involvement in the Black Sash she was Chairperson of the Edendale Welfare Society for 30 years.

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Top science journalist and former Black Sash member Christina Scott has been killed after she was run over by a car while giving a colleague a driving lesson. The tragic accident happened in Cape Town on Monday, 31 October 2011. She leaves behind three children, Ally, 12, Ben, 9, and her adoptive daughter Nosipho.

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Black Sash patron and veteran human rights activist Sheena Duncan died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Johannesburg on Tuesday, the 4th of May 2010. She was 77 and leaves behind two daughters and two grandchildren.

Sheena was well-loved and admired for her enduring commitment to work for justice; her unshaken faith in peaceful ways of doing so; and her warm and courageous heart for supporting those who suffer. We are all united in our grief and our memories of her incredible spirit and great humour. She will not be forgotten.

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The Black Sash has received the news of Rita’s passing with great sadness. She has, over the years, worked in various ways with the Black Sash, and in particular the Cape Town Regional Office which worked with her closely. She was a real stalwart in fighting for the rights of 'Women on Farms' and a true activist for the empowerment of women. Her commitment to women’s rights has been described as infectious, and in this way her spirit will live on through all those whom she inspired.

Our condolences and deepest sympathy go to her son and all those who loved her.

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The Black Sash has lost one of its founding members and most dedicated workers, the director of its first Advice Office, established in Cape Town in 1958, and a member of its governing regional council for almost 40 years. In March 1989, we elected her as honorary life Vice President, in tribute to her long history of leadership and service to the organization. 

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Mary Burton, Black Sash Trustee, pays tribute to Mavis Orpen. Mavis was a long standing member of the Black Sash. She passed away on Friday morning, 13 June 2008, a few months before her hundredth birthday.

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Long-serving Black Sash member, dedicated advice office worker in Grahamstown and Cape Town, member of the Legiwatch team, Betty Davenport lived out her belief in justice and probity in all aspects of her life. 

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It is with sadness and regret that we have learnt of the passing of Dot Erlank on 13th September.  Dot was a dedicated worker and activist in the Black Sash during the 1970s and 1980s.  

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It is with great sadness that we record the death of Anne Schuster on 12 June 2017.  Anne was a long-time member of the Black Sash and also a member of staff for some time.  She is remembered as a lovely woman, full of grace.

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I am Wendy, Di’s younger sister, but not the youngest, as that honour falls on Judy, our baby sister living in the UK. Our enlarged family was made up of Di, brother John, Wendy, Lorna, Romy and Judy. We have said goodbye to John and Romy, and now to Di.

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I am grateful to have this opportunity to pay tribute to Beva, whom I have known for over thirty years, more than half her lifetime, as a colleague and a friend.  She reminded me recently that I “gave” her the spelling of her name – it used to be written like the Canadian beaver, but as I had not seen it, I wrote it like another name I knew, Neva, meaning snow.  She quickly adopted the new version!  

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Susie Power, daughter of Noel Robb, a founding member of the Black Sash, sadly passed away on Saturday 17 January. She, and her surviving sisters Rosie de Waal and Libby Ardington, were also very active past members of the Black Sash.

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On Monday night, 27 October, Penny Haswell, a former member of the Natal Midlands Black Sash died at home. She had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease earlier this year and showed an enormous amount of courage and fortitude to the end.

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Mary Jankowitz passed away on 6 September 2013.  A service in memory of Mary will be held at St George’s Anglican Church, Sherborne Road, Parktown on Friday, 13 September. The cremation will be private. Here are some moving recollections of Mary from some of the women who worked with her at the Black Sash...

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Patricia Denniston, known as Trish or Tricia, was a leading member of the Black Sash in Elgin (Western Cape) and a woman who had a powerful influence on many lives.  We have recently learned of her death in Canada in December, and extend our condolences to her family and friends.

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Friends urged to celebrate a life lived fully with her infectious love of life and her championing of traditional Zulu pottery, Pietermaritzburg ceramicist, Juliet Armstrong, made the world a better place. Following a battle with cancer, Armstrong, a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Centre for Visual Art, died on Wednesday. She leaves her husband Mike, daughter Jessica, son Tom and stepson, Brendan.

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Born in Finland (18/08/30), died in Cape Town (14/7/2012). 

The Black Sash records with sorrow the death of Annica van Gylswyk, who was an active member in the Pretoria region for many years. Annica qualified as a Librarian (BBibl) and started her first job with the State Library in Pretoria In 1963. Her footprint can be found alongside numerous important collections housed at the UNISA Documentation Centre for African Studies, Wits University and the University of Cape Town which document the social, industrial and political history of that particularly oppressive period.

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Val Hunt was a member of Black Sash in Port Elizabeth for many years and a courageous and passionate supporter of Human Rights movements during the Apartheid era. She was a "doer", and never content to take a back seat or play a merely critical role of the Nationalist Government regime when there was work to be done.

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Tenacious human rights activist and extraordinary human being Dorothy 'Dot' Cleminshaw passed away peacefully in Cape Town on Sunday, the 18th of December after a long illness. She was 89 years old. Her children, Martin and Karen, were with her when she died and they say that she looked more at peace than they could ever recall seeing her in life.

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“We are for Peace and Human Dignity” are the words on a poster pictured on the front cover of a booklet edited by Margaret Nash, the 1985 annual conference report of the South African Council of churches. Indeed those words reflect the goals towards which she strove all her life. This remarkable Capetonian has passed away quietly in St. Luke’s hospice, after a long illness, patiently and bravely borne.

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Mrs Malindi, who worked in the Black Sash Advice Office in Cape Town for 28 years, passed away on Sunday, the 27th of June 2010 after suffering a stroke. She was 89. Lettie worked in the Advice Office from the very beginning in 1958, and took credit for teaching Eulalie Stott and Noel Robb (and probably many others) all about the pass laws. 

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Eulalie Stott, Black Sash anti-apartheid activist and champion of housing for the poor, has died at her home in Claremont at the age of 87. 
A founder member of the Liberal Party and of the Black Sash, she became a leading campaigner for the abolition of the pass laws and an outspoken, fearless opponent of the apartheid tyranny.

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DOT CLEMINSHAW PAYS TRIBUTE TO JEAN BERNADT

A woman who was perhaps the last of South Africa's great white anti-apartheid struggle icons has died. Jean Bernadt passed away peacefully on April 9, aged 96, at her home in Kenilworth, Cape Town. Jean was widowed just over four years ago in December 2007. Her husband was Himan Bernadt, a leading civil rights lawyer who founded the firm that is now Bernadt, Vukic, Potash & Getz.

Read the full trribute published in the Cape Times.

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Bunty Biggs, born in 1919 of missionary parents in Bangalore, India, who became a committed Quaker, social activist, and stalwart of the Natal Midlands Black Sash, died in England on Monday 13 November 2017.

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It was with great sadness that the Grahamstown former Sashers learned of the death of Julia Seegar of cancer in Manchester England.  Julia was an active Sash member in a time when the Eastern Cape was beset with detentions and multiple problems stemming from Apartheid.

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Jan van Gend was one of the lawyers who gave of his time freely and generously to the Black Sash’s Cape Town Advice Office to defend pass law ‘offenders’. 

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The Black Sash remembers with respect and affection the work of Anne Denniston Browne, and mourns her death on 8 June 2016.  She and other members of the organisation’s Elgin branch worked tirelessly to improve the living and working conditions of people in the area, particularly those who worked on the fruit farms, and those seasonal workers who were forbidden to live permanently there because of the pass laws.

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We deeply regret the passing of Margie Satchwell, another of our esteemed founder members.  The Trustees, Director and staff of the Black Sash pay tribute to her for her contribution to the founding of the organization in the Eastern Cape and extend their deepest sympathy to Judge Kathie Satchwell and her family.  

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Mila Zille was born Mila Cosmann on the 18th of January 1919 in Essen, Germany, the fifth and youngest child of a Jewish father and Protestant mother. She died on Saturday, the 31st of January 2015 at the age of 96. She had lived her life through a tempestuous time of world history, which shaped the person she became.

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Margaret Adelaide Canning, known as "Mac," Thompson died in Pietermarizburg on 18 June 2014, just short of her 94th birthday. Mac was a founder member of the Natal Midlands Black Sash, one of those courageous women who joined the organisation in the face of a conservative family.

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Ann Grayson, a campaigner for peace in Pietermaritzburg and one of its most active citizens, died suddenly last Friday at her retirement complex in Pretoria.

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Helen Kotze, quietly courageous opponent of apartheid and injustice, staunch member of the Black Sash and the Christian Institute (CI), died on 21 January 2013 at the age of 92. A memorial service will be held on Thursday 7 February at the Roseband Methodist Church at 2.30 pm.

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With a heavy heart I must share with you the very sad news that our colleague, David Ngxale, who worked at the Black Sash Knysna Office for 24 years (one year as a volunteer) died tragically in a car accident this weekend.

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Deena Streek (mother of the late Barry Streek) died on 5 June 2012, just four days short of her 91st birthday.  Deena was the President of Black Sash and the SAIRR in East London. She was a busy Secretary of the Mayor's School Feeding Fund and active in the Progressive Party.

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Black Sash member Desirée Berman has died in London. She passed away on 15 January 2012.  Desirée was one of the very early members of the Black Sash, and served as the editor of the magazine from December 1958 to December 1961. 

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Our dear colleague, John Neer, passed away tragically and unexpectedly after a short illness in Port Elizabeth on Monday, 21 November 2011.  John was well-loved and admired for his enduring commitment to work for justice; and his warm and courageous heart for supporting those who suffer. We are all united in our grief and our memories of his incredible spirit. John will not be forgotten.

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Joan Hemson - mother of Gille de Vlieg, David, Crispin and Jonathan Hemson, wife of the late Rex Hemson, and fearless fighter for justice - died on the 24th September 2010 at the age of 96. She was a leading member of the Black Sash and National Council of Women.

A celebration of her life was held on Sunday 17th October at 3.00 p.m. at the Botanic Gardens Visitors Centre, in Durban.

A tribute from Black Sash Trustee Di Oliver: May her soul rest in peace.  Her years of dedicated work in the Hillcrest Advice Office are a monument to her.

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Ethel Walt, a long-time national leader of the Black Sash, has died in Johannesburg on 3 June 2010, after a car accident about two weeks ago. She was a dedicated and hard-working member of the organisation, and one of the founding trustees of its Advice Office Trust in 1985.  She was closely involved in its advice office work, and an energetic and successful fund-raiser.  Most notable of all her achievements was her work against forced removals of whole communities under apartheid legislation, and in the founding of the Transvaal Rural Action Committee (TRAC).

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Black Sash trustee, Di Oliver, pays tribute to former Sash stalwart Jessie Middelmann. Jessie sadly passed away on the 5th of October 2008 shortly after her 90th birthday.

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