Jeanette Eva Curtis

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Biographical information

Synopsis:

Vice-President of NUSAS, President of NUSWEL, member of the executive committee of the Industrial Aid Society and a member of SACTU, politica

First name: 
Jeanette
Last name: 
Curtis
Date of birth: 
1949
Date of death: 
28 June 1984
Location of death: 
Northern Angola
Ban information: 
Act No. 44 of 1950 Sec. 9 (1) Issued Period(s)-[18 Nov. 1976 to 31/10/1981]

Jeanette Eva Curtis was born in 1949 in Cape Town. In 1972, Curtis served as the Vice-President of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) and President of its the social welfare arm,  NUSWEL. She was the daughter of Jack Curtis and the sister of Neville Curtis, also an anti-Apartheid activist and banned person.

In 1973 Curtis assisted in setting up the Western Province Workers’ Advice Bureau. The aim of the Bureau was to help workers with labour problems but it became the basis for organising and eventually evolved into the General Workers’ Union.

Curtis moved to Johannesburg in 1974. She was a founder of and member of the executive committee of the Industrial Aid Society. Curtis also worked as an archivist for the South African Institute of Race of Relations (SAIRR) collecting information on trade unions and leaders of the labour movement.

After the arrest of Bretyen Breytenbach, Curtis was arrested in September 1976 under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act. She was held for two month but was released in November without being charged. Curtis, along with many others in the labour movement, was banned for five years.  

Shortly after being banned Curtis met Marius Schoon, who was also banned. They married in June 1977. However, as they were both banned they were not legally allowed to communicate so the couple fled to Botswana.

In exile the Schoons continued with their anti-Apartheid activities underground. In 1978 their first child, Katryn was born. She was followed by her bother Fritz in 1981.  

Marius moved the family to Angola as he felt it would be safer than living in Botswana. On 28 June 1984, a letter bomb was delivered to the Schoon home by Craig Williamson. Williamson posed as a family friend. The bomb was meant for Marius, however he was not home at the time, so it was open by Jeanette. The bomb killed Jeanette and her daughter Katryn, who was six years old, but Fritz, who was also in the kitchen escaped unharmed.

In August 1995, Marius Schoon launched a lawsuit against Craig Williamson on the death of Jeanette and Kathryn. In 1998 Williamson and his accomplice, Jerry Raven, applied for amnesty with the Truth and Reconciliation commission. Marius died on 7 February 1999 of lung cancer. In 2000 Williamson and Raven were granted amnesty.


References:
• Blackenedout, 2003. Jeanette Schoon 1949-1984[online]. Available at http://www.blackenedout.s5.com[23 July 2012]
• SAHA, 2012. 28 June marks 28 years since the bombing of Jeanette Schoon and her daughter[online]. Available at www.saha.org.za[23 July 2012]
• SAPA, (1998), WILLIAMSON ACCUSED IN TRC OF KILLING SCHOONS OUT OF REVENGE from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, [online] Available at http://www.justice.gov.za[Accessed 15 August 2012]
• TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION   APPLICATION NO: AM 4396/96 from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, [online] Available at http://www.justice.gov.za[Accessed 15 August 2012]  

Last updated : 12-Mar-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 15-Aug-2012