We learnt on Wednesday morning of Lauretta Ngcobo’s death. Although she has struggled with her health ever since suffering a stroke, the news still came as a shock.
Ngcobo was born at Cabazi, a village in the Ixopo district, in 1931 and after her schooling at Inanda Seminary near Durban studied at Fort Hare University to become a teacher.
During the 1950s and 1960s she was active in the women’s anti-pass campaign and well known for her feminist stance against both apartheid and Zulu traditions that limited women’s freedom and reinforced their oppression under apartheid. Ngcobo followed her husband, Abednego Bhekabantu (AB) Ngcobo, into exile in 1963. In her contribution in Prodigal Daughters: Stories of Women in Exile, edited by Ngcobo and published by UKZN Press in 2012, she recounts and reflects upon her life in exile. In 1994 she returned to South Africa where, between 2000 and 2009, she would serve as a member of the KZN legislature, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and chairperson of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus in the KZN legislature.
Other published works by Ngcobo include Cross of Gold (1981), Let It Be Told: Black Women Writers in Britain (1987), And They Didnt Die (1990) and Fiki Learns to Like Other People (1994). And They Didn’t Die has been described as “the most enlightened and balanced book” about the history and personal anguish of the African woman.
In 2006 she received a Lifetime Achievement Literary Award from the South African Literary Awards; in 2008 the Presidency awarded her the Order of Ikhamanga for her excellent achievement in the field of literature and for her literary work championing gender equality; in 2014 the Durban University of Technology conferred on her an Honorary Doctorate of Technology in Arts and Design “in recognition of her outstanding contribution as a literary figure, her exceptional involvement during her political tenure, her inspirational leadership … as well as her significant ongoing community engagement efforts focusing on education, literary and rural development”.
UKZN Press remembers her as gracious, witty and persuasive; a determined hard worker who often put us to shame with her energy. We are honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to work with her and to have published her last book.
A memorial service will be held in Durban on Thursday, 12 November 2015. Details will be released in due course.
The funeral service will be held in Mzimkhulu, KwaZulu Natal, on Saturday 14 November 2015.
Condolences to all who were close to her: family, friends, colleagues and comrades.
Mrs Lauretta Gladys Ngcobo is survived by her children, Luyanda, Zabantu, Nomkhosi, Sobantu and Zikethiwe, her sister Thandekile, her grandchildren, great grandchildren and close family. She will be missed by many, many more.
Image courtesy of eThekwini Living Legends