Member of Parliament, South African ambassador and mayor
Lives of Courage
Ruth Mompati was born on 14 September1925 in the village called Khanyesa in the North West Province. She was the daughter of Seli Seichoko and my father Khaonyatse/Gaonyatse Seichoko. She stayed in Vryburg in the North West province until she passed Standard 6. After completing standard 6, she had to work for a year in Vryburg before going to the college. She worked for a white family, looking after their child because Ruth’s father had died when she was fourteen and her mother did not have enough money to keep two children at college. She later went to Tygerkloof Teachers Training College.
She finished her primary school teacher's diploma in 1944.Then she went to teach at Dithakwaneng village, about thirty-five miles from Vryburg. She left Dithakwaneng after three years. In 1948, her mother was not very well so she decided to get a teaching post at Vryburg Higher Primary School. She was in the students’ union in Tygerberg as well as the North West District Teachers’ Union. The issues then were the conditions of teachers and salaries, as well as teaching materials for the schools.
In April 1952, Ruth got married. Her husband was the nephew of the Reverend Mogorosi, who was the minister of the LMSC in Khanyesa. She left Vryburg and went to Johannesburg to stay with her mother-in-law. She also left teaching. She went to a private school to study shorthand and typing. Then her neighbour, Mrs Njiwa, who was working at Mandela and Tambo law firm, wanted to go and study medicine. When her neighbour left Mandela and Tambo law firm, Ruth applied and I got the job. Ruth’s husband was a member of the African National Congress (ANC).
From 1953 to 1961 she worked as a typist for Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo in their law practice in Johannesburg. In 1954, she was joined the African National Congress (ANC) and was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Women’s League.
Mompati was involved in the Defiance Campaign in 1952, and was a founding member of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) in 1954. She was later one of the leaders of the Women’s March on the 9th August 1956.
She went into exile in 1962 where she underwent military training and held office as secretary and head of the Women’s section of the ANC in Tanzania. From 1966 to 1973, Mompati remained a member of the ANC’s National Executive Council. During this time, she also formed part of the president’s office of the ANC.
One of Mompati’s more prominent roles is the one she played as the head of the ANC’s Board of Religious Affairs. Between 1981 and 1982, Mompati served as the chief representative of the ANC in the United Kingdom and became part of the delegation that opened talks with the South African government at Groote Schuur in 1990.
On 10 August 1992, a day after the anniversary of the historic Women’s March to Pretoria in 1956, she addressed the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid in New York on the subject of women. The day was then declared an International Day of Solidarity with Women in South Africa.
In 1994, she was elected a member of parliament in the National Assembly. She was appointed ambassador to Switzerland from 1996 to 2000 and on her return became the mayor of Vryburg (Naledi) in the North-West Province.
Ruth Mompati died on 12 May 2015 in a Cape Town Hospital where she was recovering from a short illness. Mompati died at the age of 89 years old.
• Ms Ruth Mompati [online] Available at: www.whoswhosa.co.za [Accessed 12 August 2009]
• Orford, M. and Turok, K. (2006) Life and soul: portraits of women who move South Africa. p. 50 [online]. Available at: books.google.com [Accessed 12 August 2009]
• Ruth Mompati: The road to democracy: South Africans telling their stories, Vol 1,1950 ”“ 1970. South African democracy education trust: Tsehai publisher and distributors.