From the book: My Spirit Is Not Banned by Frances Baard and Barbie Schreiner
The struggle continues
'I don't know what you mean by "tired". I can't give up because the spirit is still there. I can't help it, even if I wanted to give up. Although I can't do everything physically, the spirit still wants what I have always wanted.' Frances Board, from an interview by Cheryl Walker
I am still in Pretoria now. But my ban has expired and all that so I have been able to get involved in things again. I have been here in Mabopane a long time now, and the people accept me; they no longer think I am a police spy. So even though I am old now, I still keep myself busy. Some friends of mine, and my minister, they were on the Winterveld committee ”” Winterveld is this area just next to Mabopane. It is a very poor area, and the people need lots of things there. So the Winterveld committee tries to help them. I joined that committee. We help them with everything, and especially with this school's business. You know, Winterveld is in Bophutatswana, so they only want to make school for the Tswana people there, so the other people must suffer. They are having a lot of private schools there, for the children who don't speak Tswana, and don't go to the government schools. So we get some money from friends, like in Germany, they collect money there and send it to us. And then we get benches for the school and toilets, and some books as well.
I've been helping them for about three or four years now.
And then too, there are always people coming to ask me, 'How did you organize in Port Elizabeth in that time?' 'How should we do such and such a thing?' People from the university and people who are working in the struggle, they come to ask me questions and they ask me to come and talk to people, to address meetings and so forth. I got a call from Atteridgeville the other day. They were having a meeting there, and they wanted me to come and talk to them. It was a group of women coming together to discuss problems affecting them as women.
I can never be tired, even though I am a grandmother now! You know, I have got 11 grandchildren. Mildred had two boys, and Eleanor, two of her children died, but she has still got five children. And then there are my son's children, two little boys, and two little girls here in this house. They are still very young these children. Sarah has started going to school now. She goes to school here, just up the road. Dumisane, he is a few years older than her, and then the other two are still small.
In 1985, in January, I went to address a meeting in Port Elizabeth - well, it was not really a meeting. A friend of mine had died, and they asked me to go and say something because I knew her well. I went to Port Elizabeth and when I was there, on the Monday morning I got a phone call to say that Mildred, my oldest child, had passed away. You know she had cancer mos.
That day I couldn't get a plane to come back, so I had to wait a whole day. Hawu! Shame, she was only about 50 years. But her children are big already so that is a good thing. But I keep working, organizing, all the time. I went down to Port Elizabeth several times recently. The one time it was to launch the women's organization that had started there. They call it the Port Elizabeth Women's Organization. It is quite big, and I went to talk there.
The second time I went down was for the conference of the UDF [United Democratic Front] there. The UDF is an umbrella organization, which is to oppose the government's new constitution and so forth. So when they set up the UDF they knew that I was somebody in the organization in those days, and they called all those people to the UDF. I was one of them, so I was elected to the Transvaal Committee. When there was this launching of the Port Elizabeth UDF I went down, in a bus full with delegates from Johannesburg. It was a very successful conference, very well attended, like the launch in Cape Town and in Johannesburg.
It has been getting very good support and from all over the world too many people have been sending messages of support.
At this conference of the UDF in Port Elizabeth we happened to meet a lot of women who were at the conference, women from the affiliated organizations, from the trade union movement, from the civic, the church organizations, the UWO [United Women's Organization] and so forth. We called these women together to speak to them. They were very keen that we should form an organization of women, a national organization. And they decided that they are going to get all the women who were there, call all the women together after they have reported to their different places and the different organizations where they come from, and in some time to come they'll call a conference of the women. Then they'll have a national executive and so on, like the Federation used to be. But whether we'll call it a Federation or what we are just going to see, what do they think. We are already arranging for that conference, it will be a very great thing! The UDF, that is a very good thing. All the people are coming together under the UDF to oppose the government. I was at the launch in Cape Town. It was very big, man! I spoke at the opening of the conference. Hawu! It was a wonderful day - so many people there, altogether, and so much excitement.
You know, even though they ban me, and they ban the ANC, my spirit is still there talking, talking, that I want to be free. I still say that I want to be free. So, by banning the ANC, to me it is a waste of time because the spirit of the people is still there.
I still want this country to be like the Freedom Charter says. South Africa belongs to the people who are staying here. It belongs to them, and there is nobody who can claim it as his own. South Africa belongs to the people of South Africa, everybody who is here. The government will be the government of the people. We say, if the people elect, they can elect anybody even if it is not Mandela, as long as that person has been elected by the people. He can be a white, he can be a Chinese, and he can be anybody who lives here, as long as he has been working with us in this country. This new three-party government, let them carry on, let them do what they like. They are so confused they don't know what they are doing. So let them carry on. They can even make it one party; we are not interested. We still say the people shall govern. The Freedom Charter is a very great document, because the same things, which we have been saying then, they are the same things, which are to be, said today, the things, which are in the Charter.
There's a lot of trouble in schools today, and this has not only begun now. The time when we were still very small, when we started the Congress, when Bantu Education was first introduced, we fought very hard against this thing. What is happening today is just what happened that time. Today the student and everybody, they really understand that the education is bad.
The Charter says, 'The doors of learning shall be open to each and every person irrespective.' And that must happen, so we can all go to school together and get a good education.
The other day I was addressing a meeting and I was telling them, please do as many leaflets, like small posters, of the Freedom Charter and distribute them among the people so that each and every person should read and understand what the Charter says. I think many people still do not know the Freedom Charter, and each and every person should read it.
It is such an important document because it speaks the demands of the people, telling the truth of the people. We said the people shall govern, and I'm sure everybody wants the people to govern. We are tired of being governed by a clique of people who are in the minority, and we are such a big group.
We are tired of them making laws for us and against us, not with us. And that is why we say the Charter is very important, because the day when we made the Charter we called the people, and the people had to give us the demands. And like it says there, this country should be run by the government of the people.
We women have pledged from the outset that we are going to work side-by-side with our men, until freedom is obtained. I wish our women could stand together now as they have been standing together for a long time with their men. They must be militant like the men. We know that there is no freedom, which can be for the men without the women. The women must learn how to do everything, how to drive cars, lorries, everything, so that they must also have something to do. They mustn't leave everything to the men.
When I was in Bechuanaland [Botswana] just now, I saw young girls driving lorries. I thought it was wonderful – African women, African young girls driving lorries. I thought this was something. Here in South Africa we just see some people doing everything, but there the women are working very hard.
The women must take part in everything, even our coming government. And the women must organize and march forward to fight for what they want. The women took part in everything during the struggle. They were there during the going to jail, they were there during everything, the women, so they must really be in the government themselves. Our men are not so selfish that they will refuse. They know very well the women fought with them. I wish it would happen tomorrow. But freedom can come any time now, any time. I still believe I will see freedom in my lifetime.
They say the fight for freedom is like two strong things. Here is freedom, and here on the other side is the other thing. And now they come together, and they press and they push against each other. It is like two buck fighting. And the one will eventually push the other out, and then it is over. We are still waiting for freedom to win. It takes a long time, this struggle, but it is coming, we just have to wait hopefully, and keep on fighting.
But we must never lose hope.