Today I want to highlight the life of activist and parlimentarian Helen Suzman. Susan was born to Jewish Lithuanian parents in 1917 and lived her whole life is South Africa. Her name at birth was Helen Gavronsky. She married a considerably older man, Dr Moses Suzman when she was 19. In 1944 she began lecturing at the university and later gave that up for politics. She was elected to the House of Assembly in 1953 as a member of the United Party for the Houghton constituency in Johannesburg.
From 1961 to 1974 Helen Suzman was the only member of Parliament who opposed apartheid. Because of this she was often harassed and her phone was tapped. She was still a smart women and blew a whistle into the phone everything she felt her phone call was being heard by others.
Helen Suzman was a great and witty speaker. But often felt alone. Here she was a Jewish, and english speaking person, while parliament was made up of calvinist Afrikaner men. Nevertheless she voiced her opinions and convictions loud and clear. She was once told she disgraced South Africa with her questions, to which she answered it is not my questions that embarrasses the country it is your answers.
Helen Suzman served in Parliament for 36 years. She would see Nelson Mandela when he was in prison and was present in 1996 when he signed the constitution.
Nelson Mandela respected her and praised her for her contribution to the plight of the South African native people. She didn’t always agree with Nelson Mandela but she opposed any legislation that would be harmful to the poor blacks of the country. She opposed Nelson Mandela when he gave his support of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi as a supporter of human rights. Helen Suzman spoke against a government who would desire power and disregard the rights of individual citizens regardless of their color.
Helen Suzman had her share of critics but never lost the admiration of Nelson Mandela. Helen Suzman “was awarded 27 honorary doctorates from universities around the world, was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and received countless other awards from religious and human rights organizations around the world. Queen Elizabeth II made her an honorary Dame Commander (Civil Division) of the Order of the British Empire in 1989. She was voted #24 in the Top 100 Great South Africans TV series.”
Note: due to technical difficulties I could not download a picture.