Zainunnisa “Cissie” Gool

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Photograph: Drum Magazine, Source: Africa Media Online

Biographical information


Leader of the NLL and NEUF, member of the FAC, advocate and representative on the Cape Town City Council.

First name: 
Middle name: 
Last name: 
Date of birth: 
6 November 1897
Location of birth: 
Cape Town, Western Cape (now Western Province), South Africa
Date of death: 
1 July 1963
Location of death: 
Cape Town, Cape Province (Western Cape), South Africa

Zainunnisa “Cissie” Gool was born in Cape Town in 1897. Her father was the prominent politician, Dr Abdullah Abdurahman, leader of the African Peoples Organisation (APO) which he had helped to form in 1902. Abdurahman was also the first black South African to be elected to the Cape Town City Council in 1904.

Gool was well educated, and was tutored by both Olive Schreiner and M.K. Ghandi. Gool also attended the Trafalgar Public School, which was founded by her father. 

In 1919, Gool married Dr. Abdul Hamid Gool, but left him for fellow activist Sam Kahn in 1936. In the same year, Cissie founded the National Liberation League (NLL) and became its first president, with a membership comprised of the Coloured intelligentsia of Cape Town, including Alex la Guma as secretary.

In 1936, when the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) initiated its United Front programme against the government, in cooperation with the African National Congress (ANC), the NNL was also drawn into the campaign that included strike action, boycotts and demonstrations. Cissie’s leftist orientation signalled a major political break from her father.

From 1938 to 1951, Cissie represented Cape Town’s District Six on the Cape Town City Council, and for several years was the only woman serving on the City Council. In 1949, she was elected chairperson of the city council’s health committee.

During the 1940s, Cissie became the president of the Non-European Front and also became more active in a campaign to start passive resistance. She was arrested and charged for her involvement in the 1946 Passive Resistance campaign, but this did not deter her from her political activities.

In 1951, she appeared in the Cape Town magistrate’s court for holding a public meeting, and was also active in the Franchise Action Council that was the predecessor of the South African Coloured People’s Organisation (SACPO). Gool resigned from the City Council in the same year, and was later banned under the Suppression of Communism Act in 1954, which effectively halted her above-ground political activities.

In 1962, Cissie received an LLB degree from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and was admitted as an advocate to the Supreme Court.

She passed away from a stroke in Cape Town in 1963, and was buried at the Muslim cemetery next to her father in Observatory.

Cissie Gool was awarded the Order of Luthuli in Silver by the South African government posthumously for her contribution to the liberation struggle.

• Adv. Cissie Gool (1897- 1963)[online] Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2009]
• Morris, Michael (2004) Every Step of the Way: The Journey to Freedom in South Africa. HSRC Press: Cape Town, pp. 210-211.
• “The Jewel of District Six”[online] Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2009]

Last updated : 07-Nov-2016

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