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Human rights and anti apartheid activist, Rhoda Kadalie dies at 68

Human rights and anti apartheid activist, Rhoda Kadalie.

Human rights and anti apartheid activist, Rhoda Kadalie.

Published Apr 19, 2022

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CAPE TOWN - A formal memorial service will be held for human rights and anti apartheid activist, Rhoda Kadalie, 68, who died in her home in the US at the weekend, in June.

In a statement for the family, her son-in-law Joel Pollak said: “It is with a broken heart that I note my dear friend and mother-in-law Rhoda Kadalie passed away early Saturday morning, during the Easter weekend and the Passover holiday. We will likely hold a formal memorial service in Cape Town in late June, and an informal gathering in Los Angeles in the coming days.

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Pollak said Kadalie was diagnosed with lung cancer last year, despite never having smoked, and battled quietly.

“She continued to write and to enjoy life; she was blessed to have her sister, Judy, at her side in her last weeks. In her last hours, she listened to Gospel music and was surrounded by love.”

Kadalie created the Gender Equity Unit at the University of the Western Cape and served in President Nelson Mandela’s administration on the Human Rights Commission.

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Pollak said she resigned in protest at the commission’s failure to do more to promote socio economic rights. She then founded Impumelelo, an organisation that identified and rewarded successful development programs and partnerships between government and the private sector.

Born in District Six in 1953, she was the daughter of Pastor Fenner Kadalie and Joan Kadalie, and the granddaughter of Clements Kadalie, the first black trade union leader in South Africa. Kadalie and her family, including eight siblings, were forcibly removed from Mowbray in the early 1970s. She matriculated from Harold Cressy High School and earned degrees in library science and anthropology from UWC. She later earned a master’s degree from the International Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands, and received several honorary doctorates. She moved to the U.S.A. in 2018 to be with her daughter, Julia, and with her grandchildren.

Tributes poured in for Kadalie with UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Tyrone Pretorius remembering her as an “illustrious alumna of UWC”.

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“Our thoughts, prayers and condolences to the Kadalie family at this time. May her dear soul rest in peace. We have lost an influential giant who made a telling contribution – not only to UWC but to the broader liberation of women in our society and through her tireless pursuit of human rights and dignity,” he said.

Acting Mayor, Zahid Badroodien added: “Ms Kadalie, a well-known human rights champion, champion of women’s rights, academic, activist, writer, and founder of Impumelelo Social Innovations Centre, and the Gender Equity Unit at the University of the Western Cape is an example to all of how one person can improve the lives of so many. Our City will be poorer without her.”

Cape Times

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