Tribute to former Speaker of the National Assembly, the late Dr Frene Ginwala at the Joint Sitting, Monday, 6 February 2023, City Hall, Cape Town

Tribute to former Speaker of the National Assembly, the late Dr Frene Ginwala at the Joint Sitting, Monday, 6 February 2023, City Hall, Cape Town


Madam Speaker,

Deputy Speaker,

Chief whip of the Majority party,

honourable members and the family and colleagues of Dr Frene Ginwala,


It is a privilege and deeply held honour to have the opportunity to contribute to this important sitting celebrating the life of a great South African.


Dr Frene Ginwala was a leader of many accomplishments.  She is renowned as a courageous freedom fighter who fearlessly committed herself to the just cause for justice and an end to apartheid.  In this role Comrade Frene fully associated herself with the downtrodden the marginalised and the vulnerable.


She was also extensively educated and well-read having obtained qualifications at esteemed global higher education institutions, training in journalism and the law.


Each year we as South Africans enjoy the privilege of celebrating the brave women of 1956, who boldly marched on the Union Buildings to demand an end to apartheid oppressive laws.  Comrade Frene is of this character of women in that as a very young activist of the sixties she was already underground organising safe houses for our leaders and working closely with president O R Tambo in exile creating ANC offices and Communications channels for the underground.


It was rare for women to take up study of the Law in the sixties, I believe this choice signalled her instinctive understanding that the practice of law is deeply linked to the enjoyment of freedom and Justice.  I recall conversations we had about post-apartheid South Africa’s emerging jurisprudence and her concern that we had not been insightful in that we crafted the Constitution in a manner that assumed a progressive judiciary that will establish precedents that would advance the progressive intentions of the Constitution.  She thought at times we may have had too much faith in a sector trained in a common philosophy and not always imbued with a desire to advance transformation.  These were intriguing discussions that we never fully concluded.


I believed Comrade Ginwala came fully into her own when she was nominated as ANC candidate for National Assembly Speaker of our first democratically elected Parliament.  When she ascended to the Assembly chair after the vote, I think all present in that May of 1994 knew that a new era had begun and that that new age would have the authoritative stamp of Dr Ginwala on it.


Speaker Ginwala shaped the democratic character of our Parliament supported by several members old to parliament, and new.  Reverend Arnold Stofile our first chief whip, Jannie Momberg our programme whip, Douglas Gibson, Ken Andrew and the inimitable Mr Van Der Merwe and hardworking deputy speaker Baleka Mbete. Speaker was determined that this would be an open accessible parliament of the people.  Open Committees questions to the executive, informative debate and reminders often that we are all in this together.


The MAPS project she brilliantly steered with the title Perspectives of and on Africa was an amazing initiative designed to encourage often fractiously divided members that it was possible to look at issues from different perspectives and not just from the viewpoint of our subjective political and social experiences, through intellectual scrutiny of our engagement with task of transformation was encouraged and many new unifying conversations were begun.


She overhauled archaic rules, from firmly assisting members to transition to saying Madam Speaker after decades of Mr Speaker to getting former antagonists to shake hands.


She continued to be an internationalist serving UN bodies, helping to steer TICAD and drafting the PAP protocol and serving as an inaugural member of that key institution.


A truly incredible well-rounded leader who leaves an indelible mark on the history of post-apartheid South Africa.


I thank you




OR Tambo Building

460 Soutpansberg Road