It is with sadness and tears in my eyes to hear of the passing away of Professor Fatima Meer. Not only was she a comrade ,but a mother and a light for the oppressed.
Like Comrade Dennis Brutus she was consistent and stood stead fast for the upliftment of the poor.
In 2001 the strike by over 3000 casual workers at the ENGEN Refinery the workers were arrested , locked up , interdicted and falsely accused by the management and the SAPS at Wentworth. Activists were interdicted and arrested as well as they sort to assist the workers who were dismissed and black listed. It was to people like comrade Fatima that we turned to for assistance, whether this moral support , bail money etc.
Comrade Fatima Meer was there always and in the forefront. There was never ever a second telephone call or an invite for her to come to the communities and lend her voice and strength.
I recall her addressing 3000 casual workers at the Austerville Civic Centre on a winter’s night in June 2001 and stated’ The labour Broking system is worse than the days of slavery ‘ It least the slaves knew their master. The workers did not know who was their employer with all the different middle men giving instructions and in some cases even firing them and yet they did not employ them. The very same night workers went to the Wentworth Station to demand their entry permits confiscated by the police and Engen. Comrade Fatima Meer was present and as the Police started to shoot with live ammunition, she witnessed first hand how we in the Wentworth Community and casual workers were treated worse than animals by the Wentworth Police and the management of ENGEN.
Comrade Fatima was consistent when it was not feasible to speak out against an oppressive system and called for the demolishment of the Labour Broking System and workers to be employed directly by the ENGEN Refinery.
Over the years comrade Fatima never hesitated to be in the forefront of any in just action either by the state or corporate
It is barely a few months we have lost comrade Dennis and to lose another giant like comrade Fatima is a huge lost for all who struggle to uplift our fellow human being.
HAMBA KHALE QUAWE.
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) Coordinator
* * *
The Palestine Support Committee (PSC) & Social Movements Indaba-KZN offer their deepest condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Professor Fatima Meer. The giant trees amongst us have passed on and the forest has yet grow new ones like them.
Professor Meer had worked with the PSC in fighting the injustices perpetrated by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people just as courageously as she struggled and sacrificed for the people of this land. Professor Meer will always be remembered by us as we struggle for justice for others.
To the giants amongst us who have passed on Professor Meer and Professor Dennis Brutus; Salute Hamba Khale .. you will always be alive in our thoughts and struggles.
* * *
The Durban Mercury
We'll miss her strength in our corner
March 15, 2010 Edition 1
The Exhibition Centre is a cavernous theatre situated in the heart of Durban. It was the setting for the funeral of Fatima Meer on Saturday.
They came from everywhere. Cabinet ministers, lower-level politicians, liberation veterans and the new struggle heroes in the city - those who have fought off evictions and electricity and water disconnections, the activists striving to save the Durban market and the last remnants of the noble art of subsistence fishing.
They sat uneasily together. Almost like boxers eyeing each other from different corners. Up ahead, the religious figures took centre stage, each straining to display their openness to different religions but trying hard to put their god first.
Then it was the turn of the secular gods. The politicians. When the ANC speaks these days, Julius Malema hangs like the spectres that haunted Macbeth. Their smooth handshakes seem not to matter anymore because one gets a sense that this is the hand that quivers at the feet of Malema.
Winnie Mandela was the first up on the platform. She spoke beautifully of friendship. Her sincerity and grief were deep and raw.
Farouk Meer, the brother who never really found a place in institutional politics, took the stage. His lament on corruption was met with huge applause. When he challenged Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan on the ethics of cabinet colleagues who hid behind ministerial handbooks to live the life of Riley, this drew even bigger applause.
While everybody there knew their own Fatima Meer, it was outside that one got a sense of the people who really grasped the essence of the late activist. Excluded from the official platform, they eyed contemptuously the once struggle luminaries who implemented policies that made their already hard lives even more precarious. People like working-class women from Chatsworth. They appreciated that unlike many of the struggle "heroes" hanging around outside, Meer was a post-apartheid fighter.
From the very large marches in the centre of Durban to the small, everyday battles in its ghettoes, she was there. One of her last battles was to try to save the market. She told us at a small meeting, let them build a shopping mall at the Royal Durban Golf Club or even at Currie's Fountain. But save the market.
I remember Meer striding into Chatsworth in 1999 to campaign for the ANC. She quickly realised that disenchantment with the former liberation movement did not stem from racism or apathy, but that people in these poor areas were under direct attack by the government, her government. Their lights and water were being cut, they were being evicted. She hurt at the callousness. Meer switched tack. She stopped campaigning for votes and started rebuilding resistance. Out of that refusal to simply toe the party line, social movements in Durban were born.
* * *
Opinion 'A great friend and a mother to our children'
March 15, 2010 Edition 1
Extract from Winnie Mandela's eulogy titled,
Fatima Meer: The Friend I Chose as Family:
She was one of a very few people who could be counted on to visit while we languished in prisons. She visited me in detention and in Brandfort, despite the laws of the day. She also visited Madiba on Robben Island.
It was no surprise that she was asked by Madiba to write his biography in consultation with OR Tambo.
I arranged her communication with Lusaka and Higher than Hope was the end product.
When we needed somewhere to stay or hide, Fatima was always first to mind. Both Madiba and I visited and used the Meer home as a hideout, both in Johannesburg and in Durban.
And it was to her credit that even when there was a fallout between Madiba and I, she did not take the side of the most powerful man in the country.
She remained loyal to both of us and this is an example of true friendship that is rare to find.
As is usually the case, such bravery was accompanied by a tremendous brain.
* * *
March 13, 2010
MESSAGE OF CONDOLENCES
The Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA) is deeply saddened to hear about the death of Comrade Fatima Meer, an activist and spokesperson for the poor, marginalized and destitute communities of Azania, with few peers. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family and wish them strength and courage in this their moment of deep pain and loss. Her death comes at a time when there is a very critical need for outspoken, critical, sincere and committed grassroots oriented activists and organic independent thinkers in our country.
Her passing on coincides with nation wide acts of discontent and uprising by the poorest of the poor against a deplorable lack of service delivery and the further looming burden that will be imposed on the poor by the implementation of NERSA’S 25% increase in the price of electricity.
Fatima was right in her observation that the some of the people with whom she fought for freedom have replaced the struggle for the empowerment of the poor with their own projects for self enrichment.
She would have been one of the first to condemn the fact that Chancellor House, the investment arm of the ruling party stands to benefit from the increases as it will be responsible for the installation of boilers in the two power stations that are to be constructed and also has shares in the companies producing dirty coal that will be supplied to these power stations.
The Socialist Party of Azania will miss her feisty spirit, and the robust debates she raised and her undying spirit of activism.
Long live the spirit of Fatima Meer!
For and on behalf of the Socialist Party of Azania
PATRICK MKHIZE (Secretary-KZN PROVINCE)