Thembi Nobadula was one of the stalwarts of the African National Congress (ANC) throughout the 1950s. She was one of those who organised and led the Women’s March on Pretoria in 1956, when 20,000 women went to the Union Buildings to protest that the Pass Laws were being extended to women. Johannes Strijdom, the Prime Minister, made sure that he was not in Pretoria on 9th August 1956, so that he did not have to meet the women. A song was composed: “When you have struck the women, you have struck a rock, you will be crushed”. Thembi was that rock.
In 1962, she came to London to help in the work of establishing the now banned ANC in exile, where she lived near to Adelaide and Oliver Tambo. Over the next 32 years, she was a constant presence at both ANC and Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) meetings, never faltering in her resistance to the apartheid regime. She was an inspiration to everyone who came into contact with her.
In 1986, the ANC Women’s League, led by Adelaide Tambo and Thembi Nobadula, decided to organise a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Women’s March. Haringey NALGO, the London Anti-Apartheid Committee and the Metropolitan District of NALGO stepped up to help. A huge event was organised in London’s Finsbury Park with Angela Davis as the keynote speaker. Adelaide Tambo sat on one side of her and Thembi Nobadula on the other. To the delight of both Cde Adelaide and Cde Thembi, Angela Davis excoriated Margaret Thatcher. It was a great day, and Thembi had played a considerable part in organising it.
A great soul has passed. She was our friend, our comrade and an inspiration to all of us. There is work still to be done on the transformation of South Africa. It will require many of us to step forward, to take up her spear and to continue the work.
Comrade Thembi, hamba kahle! A hero of our heroes. Let us praise the women. Malibongwe!