April 4, 2010 marked the ninetieth birthday of Mrs. Violet Mmabogatsu Matlou, beloved wife of the late Jonas Dinoue Matlou, ANC stalwart and National Executive Committee member. On April 10, friends and family gathered in Pretoria to celebrate this living legend.
The following tribute by her eldest daughter, Boshigo N. Matlou on behalf of her siblings, is a salute to their mother for a life of sacrifice and heroism, the stuff of well-written history books. It is the first of a three-part series that includes a Biographical Article by Dr. Sifiso Ndlovu, and a History of The Matlous in Exile by Manu Herbstein. There is also a Slide Show of historical photos and documents.
By Boshigo N. Matlou
Salute to Violet Matlou on behalf of the Matlou Family.
As South Africa grapples with the challenges of development, national cohesion and engendering the values of UBUNTU, we are required to go back to our founts of knowledge and African identity. Consequently, we must celebrate our elders and tap their wisdom in this century of the African Renaissance.
The liberation history of South Africa is interwoven with a kaleidoscopic cacophony of the heroic and garland contributions of the Matlou family for nearly 70 years.
Mrs. Violet Matlou’s rich tapestry of life experiences traverses most of Africa, the UK, Romania and the U.S.A.
My mother joined the ANC in 1951, having met and married my father, the vibrant firebrand ANC youth leader, Jonas D. Matlou. She became engrossed in the activities of the Women’s League parri pasu those of the ANC. In 1956, while still breastfeeding a young baby, mom was one of twenty thousand women, along with Lillian Ngoyi and others, who took part in the Anti-Pass March on the Union Buildings. They categorically informed Strydom and his Apartheid government of their disapproval of the pass laws and the abhorrent Apartheid system, and called for majority rule.
In 1958, while marching on the main Police Station where they issued passes to women at Marshall Square, my mother, then heavily pregnant, was arrested and transported in a ‘Kwela-Kwela’ overloaded with other women. They were incarcerated overnight in dirty cells, a traumatic experience that was to engender in her for life, fear of confined places.
In 1960, she joined my father – who had gone to open the first ANC office in Botswana – a journey that would eventually take her to the four corners of the world before her return to South Africa in 1998 after a 38-year exile. My father had been mandated, with Oliver Tambo, to embark on establishing the External Wing of the ANC in exile.
Jo Matlou worked underground establishing missions in Botswana, Ghana and Algeria, and was sent by the ANC on covert missions to Cuba, Germany and other countries. He trained in the USSR with Mkhonto We Sizwe, which he played a pivotal role in establishing. Differences of opinion later led to discontinuation of his mission in exile, but he remained a loyal member of the ANC and what the movement stood for.
In latter years he studied law as a mature student and practiced it in Ghana before returning to southern Africa (Botswana) in 1985. He died in South Africa in 1991.
Mom single-handedly raised the six of us – me, Shoma, Solly, Marcus, Matlotleng and Nkope, sending us to school by herself while dad continued his work under the ANC in far away lands, working for the liberation of South Africa. In this regard, for my siblings, and me, Botswana, Tanzania, Ghana and Nigeria are deeply etched in our hearts and minds.
We are honoured to celebrate the remarkable life of our mother, Violet Matlou, whose journey to a liberated South Africa is an astonishing and breathtaking one. Our national history is truly enriched by her life’s story and that of thousands of others who gallantly and selflessly fought for a free and democratic South Africa. (To post a comment, scroll to bottom of page)
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