Friday Feature: Amazing Women- Winnie Kgware

Names: Kgware, Winnie
Born: 1917, Thaba 'Nchu, Orange Free State (now Free State)
Died: 1998
In summary: Teacher, President of the Black Peoples Convention, recipient of The Order of Luthuli in Silver 2003

Winnie Kgware was born in Thaba Nchu in the Free State in 1917.  A teacher by profession, and resident at the University of the North (Turfloop) as the wife of the Rector, Kgware was involved in supporting students in their protests against the Government’s restrictions on campus. One of her early acts at the university was to organise a Methodist prayer group in defiance of an order that banned students from worshipping on campus. She gave sustenance to the student movement and in an ironic twist, allowed the rector's residence to be used as a meeting place for the University Christian Movement, an organization that was banned from the campus at the time.

Winnie Kgware encouraged the youth to form a branch of the South African Student Movement and to establish an SRC at Hwiti High School where Peter Mokaba was elected SRC President.

Consequently, at the age of 15 years, Kgware recruited comrade Peter Mokaba to join the underground movement. Peter Mokaba was subsequently expelled from Hwiti High School because of his involvement in the struggle for political liberation and it was then that he registered as a private candidate and passed his exams.  On completion of his matriculation, Mokaba was unable to attend university due to financial constaints.  He opted to teach maths and science at school and to freelance as a journalist. It was only after the intervention Kgware, his political mentor,  that he got money to study at university where he enrolled for a Batchelor of Science in Computer Technology.

In spite of the age gap between her and fellow activists, Kgware played a leading role in the launch of the South African Students' Organisation (SASO) at the university in 1968.

The first national conference of the organisation that became the Black People’s Convention (BPC) took place at Hammanskraal from 16 to 17 December 1972, with 1 400 delegates in attendance representing 145 groups.

The conference elected an executive committee made up of Winnie Motlalepula Kgware (president), Madibeng Mokoditoa (vice president), Sipho Buthelezi (secretary general), Mosibudi Mangena (national organiser), and Saths Cooper (public relations officer).

Kgware became the first president of the BPC formed in 1972 as an umbrella body of the black consciousness movement led by Steve Biko. The BPC was amongst the organizations that were banned in 1977.

One incident that demonstrated the determination of Kgware occurred in 1977 when the bus,-taking mourners to Biko’s funeralin King William’s Town, was stopped by security forces. Kgware,then 66 years old, evaded the police and determined to be at the funeral, hitched a lift all the way to King Williams Town.

In 1998, the Umtapo Centre in Durban awarded the Steve Biko Award to Kgware in recognition of her role in the liberation struggle.

In 2003, President Thabo Mbeki conferred The Order of Luthuli in Silver to Winnie  Kgware   for outstanding leadership and lifelong commitment to the ideals of democracy, non-racialism, peace and justice.

Biography accessed on South African History Online website on 8 August 2014.

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