Inspiring…in no uncertain terms

All people concerned about civil liberties and peoples` rights, should read Helen Suzman`s memoirs, ‘In No Uncertain Terms’, published in 1993.

This well-written book, with an introduction by Nelson Mandela, will inspire all people engaged in the ongoing struggle for social justice as it depicts the courage and endurance of a remarkable woman who, with forthrightness and political astuteness, stood up against violence and oppression in South Africa during the long, shameful apartheid years, when most of her fellow parliamentarians succumbed to the vicious rule of reactionary forces upholding apartheid .

Helen Suzman was a Member of Parliament in South Africa from 1953 to 1989. During these 36 years she campaigned for  justice for all human beings: black, white and coloured .

For thirteen years, hers was often a lone voice as she was the sole representative in Parliament of the Progressive Party. For six years, she was the only woman among 165 MPs. Her courage, dedication and debating skills earned her the respect of the voiceless people in South Africa and of the many concerned people in the outside world.

Born Helen Gavronsky in 1917, she married Mosie Suzman, a physician, had two daughters, and taught Economic History at Witwatersrand University. In the mid-1940s her passion for politics was fully kindled when her study of migrant labour alerted her to the miseries caused by the apartheid system.

Her memoirs tell the story of her subsequent battles for a more just society.

Her weapons were humour, knowledge and logic. She was not afraid to fight for the human rights of those with whom she personally disagreed.

She was always determined to see for herself and inspected the dreary areas to which the blacks had been forcibly removed. She insisted on visiting Nelson Mandela in prison and Winnie Mandela in banishment.  She attended the funeral of Steve Biko and other victims of the apartheid system.

Spiced with sharp wit, ‘In No Uncertain Terms’ is essential reading. Chapter 8, ‘Prisons and Prisoners’, and Chapter 9, ‘Robben Island’, describe the extraordinary experiences of many of those incarcerated in these notorious  prisons.

Not only does the book tell the story of a woman of rare character and purpose, it is also a history, from the inside, of South Africa since the Second World War and an overview of a period which has seen suffering and courage, injustice and violence and, at the time of her writing the memoirs,  astonishing changes.

When we, today, think the going is tough, and little progress is being made to right the wrongs, especially those concerning  the plight of the First Australians, a reading of this book will sustain us in our efforts to enlighten the public and accomplish reforms that are needed in our country to bring social justice to all.

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