Gogos endure train ride as MECs fly: Daily Dispatch

Sihlwayi, Majodina under fire for using alternative transport

SOCIAL development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi and her sport, recreation, arts and culture counterpart Pemmy Majodina flew to Pretoria last week for the 60th anniversary of the 1956 women’s march while 1 000 women, including an 82-year-old ANC veteran, undertook the 24-hour journey by train.

The veteran, Rosebella Joyi of Mdantsane’s NU12, was part of the original march in 1956.

The Eastern Cape provincial government spent about R2-million to transport the women from all of the province’s six districts and two metros.

The train trip was meant to be a re-enactment of the journey taken by thousands of women in 1956 who – on arrival in the capital – bravely marched on the Union Buildings in protest against pass laws enforced by the apartheid government.

However, Sihlwayi, whose department organised the trip, and Majodina did not take part in the reenactment opting to fly instead.

While Sihlwayi did not respond to a media query on the matter, Majodina said: “I had other work commitments that week to attend to both in the province and nationally. I was not counted in the train in terms of costs.”

But Joyi expressed her disappointment at the two politicians for failing to make the train trip.

“I think the MECs really missed out,” she said, adding that she had thoroughly enjoyed the train trip as it had shown her how far the country had come since those days of apartheid South Africa.

While a Daily Dispatch team was visiting Joyi yesterday, she received a telephone call from a government official from Sihlwayi’s office who identified herself as “Vuyo”, who instructed her not to talk to the journalists.

However, she agreed to speak to the newspaper about the journey she first took as a 22-year-old.

“I led the trip last week and had many women come to me to ask about my 1956 journey. I told them about how the train made numerous and sometimes unscheduled stops to collect white families who were travelling with their maids carrying the kids and eager to go to Pretoria.”

Asked what Sihlwayi and Majodina could learn from a veteran like her, Joyi said: “How can they learn from me when they are trying to silence me. They want me to die without having told my story.”

Provincial government spokesman Sizwe Kupelo defended the travel arrangements and said “due process”, in arranging the trip, had been followed.

He said Joyi was one of 10 elderly women who were initially placed on a list of people to fly to Pretoria.

“However, she [Joyi] opted for the train as she expressed her desire to repeat the 1956 travel,” he said.

“She was put back on a flight when returning to the province and expressed joy,” he said.

Eastern Cape Democratic Alliance Women’s Network (DAWN) spokeswoman and MPL Celeste Barker criticised the MECs saying they had demonstrated a lack of leadership.

She said the original train had been an “iconic one” and the reenactment was meant to recognise the suffering of people at that time.

“To a degree what they [the MECs] did by taking a plane was a bit of an insult to all the women who went on the train in 1956 and 2016 because they were unsupported by their leaders,” said Barker.

She said people in a position of leadership should lead by example.

“They organised the trip, they should have been there on the train with the people.

“Whatever transport was used by ordinary people should have been used by everybody,” said Barker. — zwangam@dispatch.co.za