Zoliswa Ntuli was only 18 when more than 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest of proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act. But Ntuli, now 80, remembers the day like it was yesterday.
She lived in Kensington with her family at the time but even as a young girl she was aware of the “difficulty black people lived under”. “It was worse for women, especially those with families because often times they had to leave their families for months on end.”
Ma’Ntuli, as she is commonly known, began attending political meetings with other activists but she unfortunately could not be part of the 1956 march in Pretoria. “Lots of people left from here and gathered with the other women at the Union Buildings, the euphoria stretched from there to here, we could feel the spirit of all those women and we were also there in spirit,” explained the grandmother.
The retired teacher from Nyanga is a proud member of the ANC but tells Weekend Argus that the struggles of women have changed. “When we fought against the white government at the time, we were united, we knew what we were fighting for and we had a common goal. Irrespective of where you were in the country. We sang in one voice, we spoke in one voice and we fought together,” she said.
Ma’Ntuli now believes: “Male dominance is one of the greatest plights young women face today. Men exert their power on you sexually through rape, physically through their fists and murder and financially, whether it is your partner at home controlling everything or men getting all the good paying jobs,” she explains.
The elderly woman though suffering from a few ailments, spends most of her time cleaning her home and looking after her grandchildren. “Things have definitely changed since when we were younger. These young women of today do not have the same fighting spirit that we had when we were younger,” she comments with some sadness.