ANC Parliamentary Caucus Pays Tribute to the First Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Frene Ginwala

13 January 2023

The ANC Parliamentary Caucus joins millions of South Africans in mourning the late veteran of the African National Congress and first Speaker of the National Assembly in the democratic era, Dr Frene Noshir Ginwala, who passed away on Thursday, 12 January 2023. 

Dr Ginwala was, in many ways a pioneer who blazed the trail in the struggle for human rights, national liberation, and gender equality in South Africa and internationally. Her courage and love for the oppressed people of the world were manifest throughout her life. 

She played a pivotal role in the 1960s when she, as an underground operative of the ANC, organised escape routes for cadres who went into exile after the Sharpeville massacre. She also travelled around the country raising money to support the families left destitute through the arrest of their breadwinners under the state of emergency.

In exile, she distinguished herself as an academic, diplomat, and journalist who served in various countries in Europe and Africa. After her return from exile, she served on the National Executive Committee of the ANC and also helped to set up the Women's National Coalition.

Many South Africans got to know Dr Ginwala in the early days of our democracy as the dignified Madam Speaker. She was nominated by the ANC Caucus and elected by parliament as the Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa.

Her no-nonsense approach in the Office of the Speaker brought decorum to the House as she was respected by Members of Parliament of all parties. She held this position for two terms, from 1994 to 2004, and helped to establish the rules and procedures of our democratic Parliament.

These included ensuring that all parliamentary sessions were open to the public and that the Executive was held accountable to the people through parliament in line with the new Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

As the first woman Speaker of the House, she charted the course that has been followed by many outstanding women leaders. As a testament to her leadership qualities, NA Speakers after her have all been women, with only one exception.

As Speaker, she was a founding member of the Pan African Parliament. She was also a member of the Preparatory Committee for the First World Conference of Presiding Officers.

Even in her retirement, Comrade Frene Ginwana continued serving in international organisations including UN subsidiaries. She was also a Trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the first Chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Dr Ginwala was a recipient of a National Order of Luthuli in silver.

As the ANC Caucus, we convey our heartfelt condolences to her family and loved ones. Her passing has left us in with deep sadness and, at the same time, immense pride that our movement produced a giant of such national and international stature.

Lala ngoxolo Madam Speaker!

Issued by the Office of the Chief Whip, Hon. Pemmy Majodina 

For enquiries, please contact:

Luthando Nogcinisa
Advisor to the Chief Whip
076 385 1440