Frene Ginwala: African National Congress & Parsi connection


March 22, 2014

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Dr. Frene Noshir Ginwala (born 25 April 1932)[1] is a South African journalist and politician who was the first Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa from 1994 to 2004.[2] She is an Indian-South African from the ParsiIndian community of western India. Dr Frene Ginwala studied for a DPhil at Linacre College, Oxford.

clip_image002Dr Frene Ginwala was appointed as the first chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in April 2005 and is currently serving a four year term. She is one of only four female University Chancellors in South Africa.[3] She has written a number of books dealing with various aspects of the struggle against injustice and has been honoured by scores of international and local institutions and governments.

Frene Noshir Ginwala has a very chequered life. Using her anonymity, she played a tremendous role in establishing underground escape routes for ANC leaders and cadres in the period following the Sharpeville massacre and the declaration of the State of Emergency (SOE) in 1960. These included Deputy-President of the ANC Oliver Tambo and Dr Yusuf Dadoo, two very senior leaders of the liberation movement. She also organised safe houses for those who had to remain in the country. Frene also chauffeured NIC (Natal Indian Congress) leaders Dr Monty Naicker and J. N. Singh, who were operating from the underground after managing to dodge the police swoop.

Their instructions were to travel around the province and raise money from secret donors in order to support the families left destitute through the arrest of their breadwinners under the SOE which hung over the country for five months. Eventually she had to leave South Africa in the latter part of 1960 and together with Tambo, and Dadoo, they established an exile ANC office in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, which was still under British Colonial Administration until 9 December 1961. The over-throw of the regime in Zanzibar in 1963 paved the way for the formation of the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964. The young activist Frene Ginwala became a “Mädchen für alles”.

Apart from the ANC, she threw herself in a very broad field of activities. She gave lectures to trainees diplomats at Oxford University, she studied, she wrote for a number of the established media in the UK and elsewhere including the BBC. Frene Ginwala was very instrumental in establishing a communications system in the newly born Republic of Tanzania and Zanzibar. At the request of President Julius Nyerere, she became the managing editor of the English-speaking daily newspaper Standard, and Sunday News.

During the entire period of her exile (she returned to South Africa in 1991) she traversed the world preaching the horrors of apartheid and the fight against it. Despite the work load, Dr Ginwala found time to study and has a number of academic titles from a host of universities in Africa and abroad. She is a barrister at law; historian; a political scientist, and holds a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University. In the first democratic national elections of 1994 in South Africa, Dr Frene Ginwala was elected to Parliament. She was nominated by the ANC caucus and elected by parliament as the first black, and woman, to the position of Speaker of the House. A position she held from 1994 until 2004. Although “retired”, the activities of this woman who is celebrating her 80th birthday, is mind-boggling. She is serving in a number of International Organisations including UN subsidiaries, Trustee of Nelson Mandela Foundation, Chancellor of the University of KwaZulu Natal & others.

President Thabo Mbeki appointed Ginwala on 30 September 2007 to conduct the enquiry into National Director of Public Prosecutions Vusi Pikoli‘s fitness to hold office.[4] She decided generally in favour of Pikoli, but criticised poor communication between departments. She also criticised the Director General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Advocate Menzi Simelane, whose testimony was contradictory, and without basis in fact or Law.[5] She also had harsh words for Jacob Zuma on his subsequent appointment of Simelane to National Director of Public Prosecutions.[6]


In 2003 she was awarded the North-South Prize.

Order of the Rising Sun (Japan), 2008.[7]


1 ^

2^ Frene Ginwala from South African History Online. Retrieved 3 December 2007.

3 ^ The University of KwaZulu Natal’s first chancellor – Dr Frene Ginwala

4 ^ Ginwala appointed to investigate Pikoli IOL

5 ^ Report of the enquiry into the fitness of Advocate VP Pikoli

6 ^ Zuma failing to lead by example – Ginwala IOL

7 ^ “Mbeki in Japan for conference on African development,” The Citizen. 27 May 2008.

This Wikipedia page was last modified on 13 December 2013 at 02:53.