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President mourns passing of Order of Ikhamanga recipient Ms Gladys Thomas

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his deep condolences at the passing of poet, playwright and Esteemed Member of the Order of Ikhamanga Ms Gladys Thomas who has passed away at the age of 87.
The President’s thoughts are with Ms Thomas’s daughter, Tania, and sons Andre and Adrian, as well as her friends and the political and creative activists with whom she associated over many decades.
This month marks 15 years since the Cape Town-based writer was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for her “outstanding contribution to poetry and short stories through which she exposed the political injustices and human suffering of the apartheid regime and for raising international consciousness about the ravages of apartheid."
The citation for her National Order notes that Ms Thomas’s literary career started in 1967 when she began penning her debut anthology, Cry Rage, co-authored with another anti-apartheid South African poet, James Matthews. It was eventually published in 1971. This publication holds the distinction of being the first book of poetry to be banned in South Africa.
Undeterred, Gladys Thomas continued to write and present her poetry at meetings of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) until 1976. At the time, BCM had emerged as a stirring philosophical front from which oppressed South Africans of all sorts drew nourishing sustenance.
The 1980s saw her participating in various conferences across the globe, while simultaneously publishing a number of books. At all these conferences, she related the harrowing effect of apartheid on the majority of South Africans, regardless of the consequences of her outspokenness.
President Ramaphosa said: “South Africa and the south Peninsula of Cape Town where Gladys Thomas developed and articulated her social consciousness mourn the passing of a truly outstanding South African.
“Gladys Thomas was deeply affected by the indignity her family was made to endure under the Group Areas Act and other instruments of the apartheid regime. Her experiences gave life to anthologies of poetry, scripts and children’s literature that live on in the consciousness of generations of readers in our country and around the world.
“Rooted in Salt River, Simon’s Town and Ocean View, Gladys Thomas’s narration of the struggle of a nation for freedom challenged the construct of ‘forgotten communities’. She championed the tribulations and triumphs of people who did not have the means to tell their stories in the distinctive and memorable way in which she took up their plight.
“While she rests in peace, her volumes of creativity will bring us comfort and cause us to appreciate her contribution to our nation.”
Media enquiries: Tyrone Seale, Acting Spokesperson to the President
Issued by: The Presidency