Memorial Lecture on the Life and Times of Charlotte Matthys

Memorial lecture on the life and times of Ms Charlotte Matthys as delivered by the acting Premier of the Northern Cape, HON. Ms. Grizelda Cjiekella 18 August 2012, J. Shimane Hall, Upington

Programme Director
Members of the Matthys family
Distinguished Guests
Members of the community
Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is an honour and great privilege for me to deliver the memorial lecture on the life and times of Ms Bettie Charlotte Matthys, an activist and loyal cadre of the African National Congress. I want to sincerely thank both the members of the Matthys family and the Department of Arts and Culture, for the honour they have bestowed on us to deliver this important lecture.


I also want to express my deep appreciation to each of you for being here; your time and energy are amongst your greatest assets, thank you for giving up some of it to be here. We need, especially during this month of August, women of courage and substance like Comrade Matthys.
Comrade Matthys was a woman that the women of today can look up to for inspiration and guidance even when tackling the issues faced by modern day women.
As a province and country, we are forever inspired by people like Ms Matthys, who devoted her entire life to the goodwill of the people and her church. She commanded great respect and influence in the church where she strove to build a better future for all. Comrade Charlotte Matthys served in various leadership capacities in the Lutheran church where she travelled extensively to international gatherings to represent the church.
Through her laudable efforts and her contacts abroad she was able to raise over a R100 000 to help with the building of the church in Louisvale Road and undoubtedly made a huge impact in the lives of thousands of children and women.


Indeed Comrade Matthys had been blessed and used that blessing to bring great joy to other people’s lives. As a teacher by profession she inculcated the values of discipline, self reliance, hardwork and commitment in young people as the best way to achieve success. She made her mark in 1998 in the political arena by standing up to join the ANC and the ANC Women’s League.


She was not just a gender activist for women’s rights but also a human rights and equal opportunity activist in her own right. She worked hard to build the Women’s League in her community and understood very well the need to have strong and well organised structures to drive social and economic transformation. During that time she also worked very hard to revive and encourage branches so that they can stand together to fight for the rights of women and children. She made use of her free time during the weekends to visit branches and help to establish more branches.
Because of her total commitment towards her people and the delivery of local government services to her community, she was elected as a ward councillor for ward 4 in 2000. Despite the fact that she became seriously ill in 2005 she still carried out her duties diligently as councillor and continued to address the plight of the local community. She was re-elected in 2006 and served as a councillor until her calling on 25 March 2008. It is due to Charlotte Matthys and countless other women who selflessly sacrificed their time and expertise to pave the way for us to enjoy the freedoms and rights so many of us take for granted today.


She will be remembered as a graceful pillar of justice, who maintained a strong commitment to her family; her branch and her province throughout the time that she was involved in the struggle for justice and equality. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a very important year for the women’s struggle as we celebrate the 100 years of the ANC.


This year also marks the 56th anniversary since the remarkable march by women in 1956 that helped change the political landscape of the country.
Compatriots, given the legacy of women’s oppression in general and black women in particular, government’s bias towards working class and rural poor women remains steadfast. Our Government has made significant progress in empowering women in the political, public and educational spheres, but the marginalization of poor women severely compromises progress.


Despite government programmes and interventions, women continue to be marginalized and discriminated against in terms of economic opportunities, the labour market as well as access to land, credit, and finance. Despite the critical role women play in food production and management of natural resources, they have ownership of a very small percentage of agricultural land. Rural women’s lack of access to resources and basic services is compounded by their unequal rights in family structures, as well as unequal access to family resources, such as land and livestock.
Within and between race groups, women continue to bear the burden of inequality. South Africa’s rankings on the Gender-Related Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) are quite divergent, with a low GDI score but a relatively high GEM. This reflects the separate and at times contradictory nature of South Africa’s transformation process. According to the Mid-term Review of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, crime statistics indicate that the murder of adult women increased by 5, 6% during the 2010/2011 reporting period. Social contact crimes committed against adult women include common assault (46, 9% of cases), followed by assault through grievous bodily harm. Sexual offences remain unacceptably high. Ladies and gentlemen, we can also proudly report that two decades on, there is an ever rising increase in numbers of women in Parliament and government. This development can be attributed to the introduction of important legislation that empowers women, including the establishment of statutory bodies and a Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities to advance equality.


The statutory and policy architecture for gender equality in the country is comprehensive and multi-dimensional, with individual laws and policy overlapping to provide seamless protection of the rights of women and girls. Progressive legislation includes the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, the Employment Equity Act, the Domestic Violence Act, Sexual Offences Act and the Civil Union Act, among others. Government is also in the process of finalising the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which will ensure compliance both within government and the private sector with measures intended to promote women empowerment and gender equality. In honour of Comrade Charlotte Matthys we must continue to intensify and root out the scourge of violence and abuse against women and children.


We must redouble our efforts to create equal opportunities for women. In our province and throughout our country, we join in solidarity and sisterhood - on a day and during a month of joyousness, reflection, endearing and enduring nostalgia, and a recharge of energy, optimism and enthusiasm. On a day and during a month for our communities to acknowledge, with respect and appreciation, the contributions that Comrade Charlotte Matthys and countless other women make in every aspect of life:
- In the home, on the job, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, learners, workers, citizens and leaders;
- At workshops, conferences, summits, in boardrooms, classrooms, in factories, tuck-shops
- At breakfasts, dinners, at picnics, in parliaments, on television, on twitter, facebook - women coming together and making it happen for all of us- men and women; boys and girls!


Today and as we shall do throughout the month, we honour the spirit, the courage of those women like comrade Matthys, who gave inspiration to this significant event; The marches of women; weary and worn out- protesting against low wages, long working hours, inhumane conditions, child labour!


Their battles to improve the harsh and miserable, day-to-day lives of women; times when married women were the property of their husbands, in every sense! Their saddening cries for bread and roses. Yes, as women, we need bread to live, but we want the roses too. We also want to enjoy some of the lovely things in life - Sunlight, music!

Every step, every advance, was hard fought and hard won – in the face of prejudice and hostility. Today we stand on the fine and feisty shoulders of stalwarts such as Comrade Charlotte Matthys, Mama Sisulu, Mama Tambo, Helen Joseph, Mma Baard and many others as these women of substance broke down the barriers to education, to the professions, to good jobs and acceptable working conditions; to economic benefits, and to equal pay though. Inspiring leaders, dedicated followers, the finest ideals!


Today we take great pride in our progress and in our heroines – diverse, determined, influential, sophisticated and skilled and always concerned for the well being of others. Today tells an exciting story about what women can achieve – thanks to the selfless efforts of cadres in the mould of Comrade Matthys.

Let this Memorial Lecture here today, in honour of Comrade Matthys, strengthen the women’s movement and inspire all of us to continue to challenge, everyday, the reasons for gender inequality where ever we encounter it. In conclusion I want to express our profound admiration, gratitude and affection to those grassroots women who never give in; who are always there fighting for dignity; who never shirk the responsibility to speak out for those women who cannot.


Congratulations to one of our own – Minister Nkosazana Zuma on her election to the top post of Chairperson of the African Union; Congratulations to Team South Africa for an inspiring performance at the London Olympic games. Let us be inspired by Comrade Matthys, a dynamic woman who will forever inspire and guide us as we march forward in our quest for total women equality.

Malibongwe!!!

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