AUTHOR, essayist, teacher and political activist, Lauretta Ngcobo, has died.
Adele Branch, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, which published her books Prodigal Daughters and And They Didn’t Die, said in a statement: “We learnt this morning [yesterday] of Lauretta Ngcobo’s death. Although she has struggled with her health ever since suffering a stroke, the news still came as a shock.”
Ngcobo was born in Ixopo in 1931 and after completing her schooling at Inanda Seminary, near Durban, she studied at Fort Hare University to become a teacher.
During the 1950s and 1960s she was active in the women’s anti-pass campaign and well-known for her feminist stance against both apartheid and Zulu traditions that limited women’s freedom and reinforced their oppression under apartheid.
Ngcobo followed her husband, Pan Africanist Congress founder, Abednego Bhekabantu (A.B.) Ngcobo, into exile in 1963. The family moved from Swaziland to Zambia and finally settled in England, where Ngcobo worked as a teacher for 25 years.
In Prodigal Daughters: Stories of Women in Exile, edited by Ngcobo and published by UKZN Press in 2012, she recounts and reflects upon her life in exile.
Her other published works include Cross of Gold (1981), Let it be Told: Black Women Writers in Britain (1987), and Fiki Learns to Like Other People (1994).
“And They Didn’t Die has been described as the most enlightened and balanced book about the history and personal anguish of the African woman,” said Branch.
In 1994 Ngcobo returned to South Africa where, between 2000 and 2009, she served as a member of the KZN legislature, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and chairperson of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus in the KZN legislature.
In 2006 she received a Lifetime Achievement Literary Award from the South African Literary Awards. Two years later the Presidency awarded her the Order of Ikhamanga for her achievement in the field of literature and for her literary work championing gender equality.
In 2012 she was named an eThekwini Living Legend and in 2014 the Durban University of Technology conferred on her an Honorary Doctorate of Technology in Arts and Design “in recognition of her outstanding contribution as a literary figure, her exceptional involvement during her political tenure, her inspirational leadership … as well as her significant ongoing community engagement efforts focusing on education, literary and rural development”.
“UKZN Press remembers her as gracious, witty and persuasive; a determined hard worker who often put us to shame with her energy. We are honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to work with her and to have published her last book,” said Branch. “Condolences to all who were close to her: family, friends, colleagues and comrades.”
Tributes were also paid to Ngcobo by Time of the Writer, a festival organised by the Centre of Creative Arts at UKZN’s Howard College campus, which Ngcobo participated in in 2003.
In a statement the Centre said: “We wish to salute the recently departed Lauretta Ngcobo, a prolific writer, stalwart of the struggle for liberation and an unwavering voice for the empowerment of women in Africa and beyond.”