One of the few living leaders of the 1955 Women’s March and lifelong political activist, Sophie de Bruyn received an avalanche of praise for her contribution to the struggle as she turned 80 yesterday.
Fondly known as “Aunty Sophie”, South Africans sent messages of love, support and gratitude to her on social media.
De Bruyn, an Ahmed Kathrada Foundation board member and ANC Integrity Commission member, was showered with good wishes from both organisations yesterday.
Neeshan Balton, executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, described De Bruyn as energetic in spirit.
“Most recognisably and despite her age, she is an individual who embodies what it means to be a lifelong activist,” said Balton.
“Most people would agree though that Aunty Sophie, in an almost age-defying manner, doesn’t look anywhere close to 80.”
Her contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle remained an example of how women could tackle unequal power. Her conduct was an example of how women should lead, he added.
“As she turns 80, we would like to wish Aunty Sophie health and many more years to continue inspiring the generations who succeed her.”
Calling her a veteran of the anti-apartheid movement, the ANC wished De Bruyn a joyous birthday and more years of a healthy life.
The party described her as a selfless leader and praised her for continuing to serve South Africans.
“A selfless leader, Mama Sophie de Bruyn continues to serve the ANC and the people of South Africa with diligence and the utmost commitment. “She recently served as a member of the electoral commission for the 54th national conference of the ANC,” the party said.
De Bruyn was born in Villageboard in Port Elizabeth in 1938. She was a founding member of the South African Congress of Trade Unions, the predecessor of the Congress of SA Trade Unions.
De Bruyn got involved in the anti-apartheid movement at just 18 years of age, becoming one of the leaders of the 1955 Women’s March to the Union Buildings.
The march was held to protest against the government’s announcement that women would have to carry pass books, too. The ANC added that it “continues to draw from the wisdom and courage of leaders of De Bruyn’s calibre” as it pursued radical socioeconomic transformation.