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Nomarussia Bonase, this year's winner of the Anne Klein Women's Award from Germany's Heinrich Böll Foundation/ Gunda-Werner-Institut

South African advocate for Apartheid victims wins German award

This year’s Anne Klein Women’s Award from Germany’s Heinrich Böll Foundation goes to South African Nomarussia Bonase, who fights for Apartheid victims still waiting for compensation. DW journalist Thuso Khumalo has met her.

Nomarussia Bonase, aged 50, celebrated winning the Anne Klein Women’s Award by singing and dancing with her family and supporters, both young and old, on the street outside her home in Tokoza township on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

“I did cry when I shared this information with family and also my group,” she told DW. Bonase is the National Coordinator at the Khulumani Support group, an organization representing more than 100,000 victims of Apartheid who are still fighting for reparations.

The organization was founded by survivors who testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 1996 to 1998). In particular, it now takes up the cases of women who were not heard by the Commission.

Bonase’s home in Khumalo Street in Tokoza is often filled with women who want her to fight on their behalf. Most are demanding compensation from the state for the injustices and sexual abuse that they and their families suffered under Apartheid.

Nomarussia Bonase with her award at a ceremony in Berlin / Photo: Germany’s Heinrich Böll Foundation

59-year-old Danisile Maphanga wants compensation for the death of her son, who was killed by the military under Apartheid. She is effusive in her praise of Bonase and explains why she believes she deserves the Anne Klein Award.

“Nomarussia is a brave, intelligent woman, the pillar of our organization. Without her we can’t do anything. She is like a president, can knock down doors,” she said.

70-year-old Mathemba Mthembu believes Bonase is doing a great deal to heal the wounds of the past. She herself is bitter and is seeking compensation for the killing of her son Philimon Thandelike in the closing years of the Apartheid regime.

“My child died at 2 O’Clock one day in 1993 in broad daylight. I witnessed it. They killed him in front of me. They took him out of the house and shot him. He left a child who is now 22. I’m suffering with this orphaned child. We are suffering, we are starving. We are emotionally destroyed. We don’t live a decent life,” she told DW.

Besides helping the women fight for reparations, Bonase also assists them in the search for work. The activist says she wants the government to listen to the women’s grievances and compensate them. “We say that reparations are the first step towards transformation.”

Bonase says the injustices she experienced during apartheid have motivated her to help others. People place their hopes in her, convinced that “if Nomarussia can go and knock at the door, then maybe something will happen.”

Anne Klein – after whom the award is named – is described by the Heinrich Böll Foundation on its website as a “champion of women’s rights and same-sex lifestyles.” She died in 2011. The Heinrich Böll Foundation, named after the German novelist and peace campaigner, is affiliated to Germany’s Green Party.

Nomarussia Bonase received her award at a ceremony in Berlin on 3 March.


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