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South Africa

S. African activist battling for apartheid survivors picks up German award

This year's Anne Klein Women's Award from Germany's Heinrich Böll Foundation goes to South African Nomarussia Bonase, who fights for apartheid victims still waiting for compensation. Thuso Khumalo has been to see her.

Nomarussia Bonase, aged 50, celebrated winning the Anne Klein Women's Award by singing and dancing with her family and supporters, both young and old, on the street outside her home in Tokouza township on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

"I did cry when I shared this information with family and also my group," she told DW.

Bonase is the National Coordinator at the Khulumani Support group, an organization representing more than 100,000 victims of apartheid who are still fighting for reparations. The organization was founded by survivors who testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission  (1996-1998). In particular, it now takes up the cases of women who were not heard by the Commission.     

Bonase's home in Khumalo Street in Tokoza is often filled with women who want her to fight on their behalf. Most are demanding compensation from the state for the injustices and sexual abuse that they and their families suffered under apartheid. 

Südafrika Nomarussia Bonase gewinnt Anne Klein Award (DW/T. Khumalo)

The Khulumani Support Group campaigns for reparations for victims of apartheid

59-year-old Danisile Maphanga wants compensation for the death of her son, who was killed by the military under apartheid. She is effusive in her praise of Bonase and explains why she believes she deserves the Anne Klein Award.

"Nomarussia is a brave, intelligent  woman, the pillar of our organization. Without her we can't do anything. She is like a president, can knock down doors," she said.

'We don't lead a decent life'

70-year-old Mathemba Mthembu believes Bonase is doing a great deal to heal the wounds of the past. She herself is bitter and is seeking compensation for the killing of her son Philimon Thandelike in the closing years of the apartheid regime.

"My child died at 2 O'Clock one day in 1993 in broad daylight. I witnessed it. They killed him in front of me. They took him out of the house and shot him. He left a child who is now 22. I'm suffering with this orphaned child. We are suffering, we are starving. We are emotionally destroyed. We don't live a decent life," she told DW.

Bildergalerie Nelson Mandela (Walter Dhladhla/AFP/Getty Images)

The late Nelson Mandela (left), South Africa's first post-apartheid president, receives the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from its chair Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Besides helping the women fight for reparations, Bonase also assists them in the search for work. She says she wants the government to listen to the women's grievances and compensate them. "We say that reparations are the first step towards transformation."

Bonase says the injustices she experienced during apartheid have motivated her to help others. People place their hopes in her, convinced that "if Nomarussia can go and knock at the door, then maybe something will happen."                

Anne Klein - after whom the award was named - is described by the Heinrich Böll Foundation on its website as a "champion of women's rights and same-sex lifestyles." She died in 2011. The Heinrich Böll Foundation, named after the late German novelist and peace campaigner, is affiliated to Germany's Greens Party.

 Nomarussia Bonase receives her award at a ceremony in Berlin on March 3.

  

 

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