06 November 2011

A giant in anti-apartheid activism was born this month!

Born to a politician father, Cissie Gool was dubbed the ‘Jewel of District Six' and ‘Joan of Arc' by South Africans for her sterling work as an anti-apartheid activist.

A well educated woman, Cissie achieved many "firsts" in her life. She was the first coloured woman to receive a master's degree in from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and she later became the oldest and first coloured woman to graduate from UCT's law school in South Africa and to be called to the Cape Bar.

She founded the National Liberation League and became its first president and for several years was the only woman serving on the City Council. She was also part of the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign which saw her getting arrested - an action that never deterred her from political activism.

From 1938 to 1951, she represented Cape Town's District Six in the Cape Town City Council. During the 1940's she became the president of the Non-European Front.

Zainunnisa "Cissie" Gool was born on the 6th of November 1897, to politician father Dr. Abdullah Abdurahman and mother Helen James Potter. As a child she was tutored by the likes of Olive Schreiner and Mahatma Gandhi. She attended the historical Trafalgar Public School which was founded by her father.

Cissie married Abdul Hamid Gool, hence the surname, and they had three children, two of which became medical doctors. She later left him for fellow activist Sam Kahn.

Having led an enormously successful political career and enjoying a fair amount of glory, controversy and abuse by the apartheid government, Cissie died from a stroke in 1963, a year after receiving an LLB from UCT and an admission as an advocate to the Supreme Court.

The South African government in 2003 posthumously honoured her with the Order of Luthuli award in silver for her above-ground contribution to the liberation struggle.

Visit the SAHA-hosted website to read more about Cissie Gool and her memorial artwork which was built as part of the Sunday Times Heritage Project.