Annie Silinga

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Biographical information

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Member of the ANC, member of the executive committee of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW), defendant in the 1956 Treason trial, president of the Cape Town ANC Women’s League

First name: 
Last name: 
Date of birth: 
Location of birth: 
Nqqamakwe, Butterworth district, Transkei
Date of death: 
Location of death: 
Langa, Cape Town

Annie Silinga was born in 1910 at Nqqamakwe in the Butterworth district of the Transkei where she completed only a few years of primary school. In 1937 she moved to Cape Town, where her husband was employed. In 1948 she joined the Langa Vigilance Association and, during the Defiance Campaign of 1952, she joined the African National Congress (ANC). During the Defiance Campaign, she served a brief jail term for civil disobedience. Annie was elected to the executive committee of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) on its founding in 1954. Though she was almost illiterate, she had come to the forefront as one of the leaders of the women’s anti-pass campaign.

In 1955 she was arrested for refusing to comply with pass regulations and after a series of appeals was banished and sent under police escort to the Transkei. In a phrase used by Annie herself, her three children in Langa were orphans whose mother lived and Matthew was a widower though his wife was alive. Still refusing to comply, she returned illegally to live with her family in Langa and in 1957 finally appealed her case successfully on the grounds that more than 15 years’ residence in Cape Town entitled her to remain there. Annie Silinga was arrested for treason and taken to Johannesburg in December 1956, the only African woman from the Western Cape to be among the accused.

After the Treason Trial Annie was elected president of the Cape Town ANC Women’s League and was jailed in 1960 during the state of emergency. She spent the rest of her life in Langa township where she died in 1984. Although she was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave, artist Sue Williamson, at the request of Annie Silinga’s family, created a piece to place at her grave in Langa cemetery. It bears Silinga's battle cry: "I will never carry a pass!"

Last updated : 05-Jun-2018

This article was produced by South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011

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