File photo: Amina Cachalia

Cape Town -

Tributes have poured in for anti-apartheid activist and ANC veteran Amina Cachalia, who died on Thursday.

Cachalia, a long-time friend of Nelson Mandela, was 82.

The ANC and the DA both praised Cachalia for her role in the struggle against apartheid.

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory said it had learned of her death with great sadness on Thursday.

“On behalf of our founder, board of trustees and staff we send our deepest condolences to her family and friends,” chief executive, Achmat Dangor said.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said “Comrade Amina” had played a “crucial and visible role” in the structures of the liberation movement.

“She was a prominent member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), and was a key figure in the formation of the Federation of South African Women (Fedsaw) and was active in the ANC. She was a prominent and outspoken figure during the 1956 women’s march against pass laws and apartheid,” said Mthembu.

He said Cachalia was among those who recruited volunteers during the defiance campaign.

“She is among the women who are credited for having placed gender equity firmly as a site of struggle and aligned it to broader struggles led by the ANC. As an individual she lived through the pain of police harassment, imprisonment, house arrests, banning and humiliation,” said Mthembu.

He said her “prominence during the Struggle drew her close to Nelson Mandela, who has been her friend to the last”.

DA leader Helen Zille said Cachalia was a brave Struggle hero.

“As a member of the Indian Youth Congress and founder of the Women’s Progressive Union she was determined and fought fiercely to overcome injustice and racial discrimination. Together with Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi and Ida Mtwana, Amina started the Fedsaw,” said Zille.

She said Fedsaw famously led 20 000 women to march towards the Union Buildings to present their petitions against the pass laws.

Cachalia was the widow of political activist Yusuf Cachalia. She was elected an MP in the first democratic elections of 1994.

She also received The Order of Luthuli in Bronze for her lifetime contribution to the Struggle for gender equality, non-racism and a free and democratic South Africa.

Political Bureau