By Sheila Berry
Mam Fikile Ntshangase was a shero who paid with her life for her strong belief in justice and integrity. It took 6 bullets from a hired assassin’s gun to silence this 63-year-old woman who unflinchingly spoke out against corruption, illegal actions and acts of betrayal.
Fikile’s name means “arrived” in Zulu and sums her up very well. When she arrived at meetings her presence was manifest. She dressed elegantly and sat in the front rows. She engaged actively in what was being presented and was not afraid to express what was on her mind. She was meticulous about gathering information and armed with the facts, she was fearless in speaking truth to power. She challenged ministers, high-ranking officials, and traditional leaders and would call them to account.
Fikile’s activism started in high school, where she was involved in community service to counter the injustices and inequality of the apartheid regime.
As a young woman, she was active in politics but unencumbered by party politics. She aligned herself with those who shared her views and values more than with a political party, especially one that was failing the very people it was created to serve. Her objective was to change the repressive and unjust society she grew up in and not about seeking personal power. She wanted people to experience freedom and justice, and to know their rights and fight for them, especially their constitutional and land rights. She even named her daughter Malungelo, which means “rights” in Zulu.
Things also had to be done right. Fikile spoke out strongly when things were done in an unacceptable way or did not follow the required protocols. She was relentless when she came across an irregularity and would raise the issue at every opportunity until she was heard. She saw it as her civic duty to expose what was wrong and unacceptable, and to educate people about the right way to do things. She had been a teacher and would not accept the idea that if you lived in a rural community you were uninformed.
Fikile valued and appreciated herself as a woman and encouraged young women to respect themselves and be aware of the important contribution women made to the world. She was a mother, grandmother, and a pillar of the Ophondweni community. Her home was always open. She never turned anyone away who came to her in need. She was also a loving wife and enjoyed a very happy marriage with her late husband who fully supported and respected her and her work.
The Global Environmental Trust and All Rise are honoured to have worked closely with Mam Fikile and support all efforts to share her rich and instructive story. As a committed teacher, Fikile would have appreciated any helpful learnings that emerge from her life …. and her death.
This article was also published in allrise.org.za