Campaigner Dot Cleminshaw has died. Photo: Melinda Stuurman
Campaigner Dot Cleminshaw has died. Photo: Melinda Stuurman

Veteran activist Cleminshaw dies at 89

By Time of article published Dec 20, 2011

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Former anti-apartheid activist Dot Cleminshaw (nee Mullany) died on Monday after a long illness, aged 89.

In September 2010, President Jacob Zuma conferred a state honour on her, the Order of Luthuli in Silver.

Cleminshaw had been active on many fronts, including the Black Sash, which she joined in 1963, identifying with its activism and street protests.

Black Sash chairwoman Mary Burton described Cleminshaw as “a really strong and determined woman” despite being physically frail in her later years.

“One of her most important achievements was to lobby for a change to the laws on abortion,” said Burton.

Former Cape Town mayor Gordon Oliver said:

“She was very alive and very alert to injustice and her concerns were for a better world.”

Born in Cape Town, Cleminshaw attended Ellerslie College in Sea Point and matriculated at 16 with a full distinction. She later studied for a BA at Unisa, graduating cum laude.

She worked in the Department of Defence as a secretary, and became involved with the Torch Commando to protest against the removal of coloured people from the voters’ roll.

She married Harry Cleminshaw in the early 1950s, and later joined the Liberal Party of South Africa, which opposed apartheid and called for “one man, one vote”.

Burton said, although Cleminshaw was not particularly religious, she had worked with Christian organisations because they presented the opportunity “to work for a better life and equality”.

UCT economics professor Francis Wilson, who met Cleminshaw in the 1950s when they were both members of the Liberal Party, described her as enormously courageous.

Wilson said she played key roles in several campaigns against oppression and injustice, including opposition to forced conscription into the defence force.

Bishop David Russell, who worked closely with Cleminshaw in the Christian Institute, said: “She never gave up, she was indefatigable. The people who knew her were tremendously impressed by her courage.”

Cleminshaw is survived by her son Martin, son-in-law Martin de Waal and grandchildren Jan and Simon de Waal. - Cape Times

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