Photo: Lord Peter Hain.
Photo: Lord Peter Hain.

Anti-apartheid activist Adelaine Hain dies aged 92

By SIHLE MAVUSO Time of article published Sep 9, 2019

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Adelaine Hain, the Port Alfred born anti-apartheid activist who broke ranks with white people - who were enjoying the massive social and economic benefits that were brought by the apartheid government - and joined the struggle against the system, has died at the age of 92.

She passed away on Sunday in Neath, South Wales where she was living after leaving apartheid South Africa in 1966. 

Her sad passing was announced by her son, Lord Peter Hain, another anti-apartheid struggle veteran who grew up in South Africa and was educated in Pretoria.

Peter Hain said one of her prominent achievements in the fight against the evil apartheid system was a leading role in the militant Stop the Seventy Tour campaign, which forced the cancellation of the 1970 all-white South African cricket tour to Britain. 

Its success propelled white South Africa into sporting isolation until apartheid was overthrown and Nelson Mandela became President.

However, like most opponents of the apartheid system that was fiercely enforced by the national party, her fight against the system brought suffering for her and her entire family so much that at some point they were banned people. 

But she never gave up. 

In the early 1960s she was successively jailed, banned and exiled to Britain and that was the beginning of a long period of suffering that would however link her with people like Nelson Mandela and former deputy chief justice, Dikgang Moseneke. 

In September 1963 she was served with a banning order which contained a very long list of restrictions designed to stop her political activism and render her a non-person who could not be quoted in public and it made it illegal for her to communicate with any other banned person.

But despite her banning order she remained defiant, her activism now clandestine. 

Adelaine, together with her husband, Walter, joined the South African Liberal Party in 1954 and from 1958 became extremely active in its Pretoria Branch, she its Secretary and later he its Chairman, until they were both issued with banning orders suppressing their activism.

As a leading activist she was "a diminutive figure, barely five feet tall, she charged about Pretoria, the capital city and citadel of apartheid, fighting for civil rights".  In local black townships like Atteridgeville, Lady Selborne and Mamelodi, she signed scores of passbooks to keep their owners from being arrested – even though it was illegal for her as their non-employer to do so.

For their anti-apartheid activism in the Party, the Hains were both imprisoned for two weeks without charge in 1961. 

They were released – but only because, as they were arrested, Adelaide had dashed away from Special Branch officers, chewed up and spat out the incriminating evidence, a draft leaflet supporting Mandela’s defiance campaign.

A statement issued on Monday read: "Isolated on her own in a large women’s prison, with warders creepily leering at her while she bathed, she was haunted by the cries of black women prisoners being savagely beaten.

"Like most opponents of apartheid, Adelaine knew the power of the pen and she is used it decisively to de-legitimise the regime, first a writer of letters to the editor (to the Guardian and Tribune newspapers) and later as a journalist. Her career in journalism saw her covering the 1962 treason trial of Mandela for the weekly anti-apartheid newspaper Contact. 

Invariably the only person in the public gallery reserved for whites – the one for blacks packed – Mandela on entry to the dock each morning would turn to her and raise his clenched fist in salute, to which she would stand and return with her small white fist raised."

Political Bureau

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