'A fighter for the freedom of all South Africans' - Ramaphosa, political parties pay tribute to Mama Sobukwe

Messages of condolences streamed in from the president and political parties on Wednesday following the death of Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe, the widow of PAC founder Robert Sobukwe.

PAC leader Narius Moloto confirmed to News24 earlier on Wednesday morning that Sobukwe had died in hospital overnight. She was 91.

"We are saddened, but at the same time we celebrate her life, a life well lived, and a principled woman. She was a very strong woman, she supported her husband through tribulation, she was behind Sobukwe.

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"She never wavered, she raised the children alone because her husband was in prison or under house arrest," Moloto said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has since expressed his condolences to her family.

In April this year, Ramaphosa bestowed the National Order of Luthuli in Silver on Sobukwe, who was also known as the "Mother of Azania".

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the death of her husband, Robert.

Struggle stalwart in her own right

"We have lost a heroine of resistance and a fighter for the freedom of all South Africans, who continued her activism into our democratic dispensation. We will always remember and honour her extraordinary contribution," Ramaphosa said.

The EFF has wished comfort and strength to her family, friends, and the entire Pan-Africanist movement.

"Mama Sobukwe is amongst the women who went through hell due to the activism of her husband, who was hated and feared by the murderous apartheid regime," EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said.

Ndlozi said "finally, after 24 years of democracy", the country would expropriate land without compensation – a PAC objective for African people to own land, achieved.

The ANC said Sobukwe was a struggle stalwart in her own right.

Head of the presidency at Luthuli House Zizi Kodwa said she had endured pain, rejection and immense suffering at the hands of the apartheid regime.

"National Orders are awarded to South Africans who have made a meaningful contribution to the struggle for democracy, as well as human rights."

Parliament's National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Thandi Modise also extended their condolences in a statement.

"Mrs Sobukwe will be remembered for her courage, resilience and fortitude during the fight for liberation when her husband was jailed in Robben Island by the Apartheid government," read the statement.

"Described as humble and warm, Mama Azania endured unspeakable suffering, struggle and pain during that period. However, despite this, she remained unwavering in her resolve and commitment towards the liberation of South Africa. "

The Nelson Mandela Foundation acknowledged her death and recalled its working relationship with the struggle hero.

"We, at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, came to know her in 2010 when we worked with her and her family to produce an exhibition in honour of her late husband, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe," a statement said.

Launched in February 2011 at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, in collaboration with the Robert Sobukwe Trust, Remember Africa paid tribute to the founder and first leader of the Pan Africanist Congress.

The title was inspired by a conversation with Mama Sobukwe at her home in the Eastern Cape town of Graaff-Reinet when she reminded us that her husband would regularly greet people with the words, 'Remember Africa'.

Sobukwe's family affectionately remembered her as the "Mother of Azania" and a "fearless icon of the struggle against racism-white supremacy".

"The Sobukwe family is deeply grateful for the gift of her life and the innumerable lesson she leaves behind, and even as we mourn her passing, we celebrate her humility and the simplicity with which she approached and viewed life. Indeed, a Great Tree has fallen!" said a statement.

The family will release details of the memorial and funeral services once these have been finalised.