Mourners say Emma Mashinini lamented the direction SA is taking

PRETORIA – Mourners at Emma Mashinini’s funderal said the workers’ rights activist lamented the direction South Africa was taking. 

The trade unionist and struggle stalwart was laid to rest in Pretoria on Saturday. 

The 87-year-old founder of the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union, died on Monday.

Those attending the funeral, including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, said they’ll remember her as a fierce fighter for  workers’ rights.

The life and memory of Emma Mashinini has been celebrated throughout the week.

READ - Emma Mashinini (1929-2017): strikes followed her all her life

At her funeral, she was described as a fighter for justice.

The St Albans Cathedral Church in Pretoria was packed with mourners who came to pay their last respects, including some of her dear friends.

‘She never allowed anything to scare her. In those bad old days there were a lot of things that could scare you,” said Tutu. 

Mashinini received an official provincial funeral.

She recieved a number of recognitions, including with the Order of the Baobab and the Order of Luthuli, for her role in advancing the rights of the working class during apartheid.

Reverend Frank Chikane said Mashinini was a woman who stood for principles and for the truth.

“The detention, the torture, couldn’t shake her. She stood until the last, even after 94. She became part of the reconstruction, the rethinking, the rebuilding of a new SA. The painful thing is that before she left she really lamented about the direction the country was taking,” said Chikane. 

Mashinini was born in Rosettenville, a white suburb in Pretoria, to a mother who was a domestic worker. As a child she and her family endured several relocations under apartheid.

Zwelinzima Vavi called her:‘”A campaigner for workers’ rights, a unifier, someone who loved this country.”

“I know she’s departing when things are not going well. She was absolutely in pain about what has happened at Cosatu and what is happening in SA today,” said Vavi. 

Mashinini fought for the inclusion of women leaders during the founding of Cosatu in 1985, and helped ensure their logo included the image of a woman with a baby.


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