Ruth First


My personal tribute to her is best cast in what Comrade Harry Gwala, another martyr of our heroic struggle, taught to young cadres and political prisoners on Robben Island. That included the president of the Republic and me. I was one of those who sat at the feet of this self-proclaimed Stalinist and master of the revolution. I do not recall who he attributed the quote to but the revolutionary mantra stayed with me: I have expunged reference to “man” for “woman”

“A woman’s greatest possession is life. Since it is given to her to live but once, she must so live it that in dying she must be able to say: all my life and all my strength have been dedicated to the finest cause in the world and that is the liberation of mankind.”

Enough said about the revolution and its poetry. The agonising question I have chosen to ask is in what way the heroic life of Ruth First should inspire my role as a judge in a post-conflict society; thus a transforming society or one in transition. I propose to explore that question within the overarching theme of courage of principle.


The founding fathers of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania have bequeathed to us a vibrant organization which we are reducing to ruins through selfishness and factional battles.

I have read David James Smith’s book, Young Mandela and the book confirmed what I have repeatedly written that there is no organization that the ANC fears more than the PAC. If there are those who doubt the veracity of the foregoing statement then they must go and read Young Mandela. Moreover, the book confirms that the PAC and the founding President of the ANCYL Anton Muziwakhe Lembede were always right on the question of Africans being on the forefront of and leading the struggle for liberation.

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