National Council of African Women

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After the Bloemfontein All Africa Convention, the ever-energetic Minah Soga sat down to write letters to several women inviting them to the first Conference in December 1937. The response was good.

The Historic first National Conference of NCAW was chaired by Mrs. L Nikiwe.  In her introductory remarks she likened the NCAW to a “canoe sailing to a distant unknown land, with a need of a far-seeing captain.” These are no-doubt words of person with a vision. She cautioned the members to “stand in solid unity” in order to reach their promised land.

Among the dignitaries who attended was Dr. Ralphe Bunch from the United States of America. He was touring South Africa at the time. His message was touching. “I look up to the African women as Mothers, as I am a descendent of Africa” he said. For him a mother was somebody who could fight for almost anything, be it social privileges, self respect, self improvement and above all, preservation of one’s culture. Dr. Bunch ended by strongly encouraging the NCAW to be good mothers.

The NCAW acquired many friends which included Mrs. Edith Rheinalt-Jones who remained a pillar to this organization, always giving unprejudiced advice. At this conference, Mrs. Rheinalt-Jones encouraged the ladies telling them that on that day the 16th of December 1937, “you are writing a page in the history of South Africa. The importance of your determination shall be rewarded manifold in the future.”

The forty delegates and visitors who attended the conference heeded the advice of the speakers. This fact was evident from the election results held at the end of this meeting. When names were requested for the presidency of this Council, Miss Soga’s name was unanimously agreed upon. She, however, decline, but instead unselfishly suggested the name of a “more experienced lady of the day”, Mrs. Charlotte Makgomo Maxeke. Mrs. Maxeke, elected in absentia, became the first National President of National Council of African Women. Miss Soga, the convener of this Conference became the general secretary.

The 1938 Conference was held at Bloemfontein on the 18th day of December. It was at this conference that the first draft constitution was considered and circulated. The pattern of this constitution was largely based on that of the International Council of Women (ICW) whose pattern NCAW copied “as far as practicable.” The motto too was also adopted from ICW “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YE WOULD THAT THEY SHOULD DO UNTO YOU.” At this Conference, Mrs. Rheinhalt-Jones advised members to have a banner by which they would always be identified. At the second National Conference, Mrs. Maxeke expressed as she gave her presidential address, “I want to thank you very much and congratulate you on your excellent deliberations. This work is not for yourselves-KILL that spirit OF SELF. Do not live above your people, but live with them. If you can rise, bring someone with you. Do away with that fearful animal jealousy. KILL THAT SPIRIT and love one another as brothers and sisters. The animal that will tear us to pieces is tribalism. I saw the shadow of it and it should cease to be. Stand by your motto, the golden rule.”

Mrs. Charlotte Maxeke 1874-1939

Mrs. Charlotte Makgomo Maxeke, formerly Mannya was born at the Ramokgopa District, Petersburg on April 7, 1874.  As a young lady, she and other youngsters were organized by a Mr. Bam to form a group of traveling choristers. They toured England and eventually came to America to perform. While in America their finances were used up. They sought God and called to Him in their own language. They received more offers which helped to sustain their stay in America and were granted an opportunity for university training.

Charlotte went to Wilberforce University in Ohio for her studies and was later introduced to the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church that was solely run and administered by Blacks. Charlotte graduated with a B. S. degree in 1905 whiles her husband Rev Marshall Maxeke, who was also in this group, graduated with a B. A. degree. They immediately came back home together where Charlotte helped found an Institute which was named after her alma mater, Wilberforce.
Already at an advanced age, Charlotte became a leader of the NCAW and was viewed as a pillar of the organization. She was highly respected. Those who worked with her had the pleasure of gaining from her experiences. She died still being President of NCAW at the age of 65 in 1939. Her soul is surely resting in peace because one of her babies, NCAW is still growing from strength to strength.
The names of the ladies shown below were the Presidents of NCAW, who have braved the storms and kept the serenity of this organization.

First Mrs. Charlotte Makgomo Maxeke (formerly Mannya) (deceased) 1937-1939
Second Miss Minah Tembekile Soga (Founder and Life President) (deceased) 1939-1954
Third Mrs. Gertrude Jumantha Mdledle (deceased) 1955-1956
Fourth Mrs. Magdeline Madge Sesedi (deceased) 1957-1964
Fifth Mrs. Abigail M. Mapanzela 1965-1967
Sixth Miss Eginah N Mzazi (deceased) 1968-1970
Seventh Mrs. Elsie Beauty Kuku Ngich (deceased) 1971-1972
Eighth Miss Sara Phala (deceased) 1973-1974
Ninth Mrs. Catherine Matshidiso Mamabolo (deceased) 1974-1977
Tenth Mrs. Egina N Mzazi (deceased) 1979-1980
Eleventh Mrs. Lulu M Msimanga (formerly Miss Tshengiwe) (deceased) 1981-1982
Twelfth Miss Isabel Winkie Direko 1983-1985
Thirteenth Mrs. Magdalane Madiabo Mokgata 50th Anniversary 1986-1989
Fourteenth Mrs. Magdalane Madiabo Mokgata 1994-1997
Fifteenth Mrs. Anna Moagi 1998-2001
Sixteenth Mrs. Emily M. Diseko 2001-2003
Seventeenth Mrs. TWB Phatudi (deceased)/Mrs. Emily M. Diseko 2003-2004
Eighteenth Miss Faith Thokozile Hlatywayo 70th Anniversary 2004-2007


Magdeline Madge Sesedi always felt that African women should seek professionally training. The lack of professional training had hurt African women in gaining better paying employment.  It was for this reason, that Madge Sesedi, as she was popularly known, sought ways of helping African women. In 1958 Madge Sesedi through negotiations, helped the NCAW start a Bursary Fund.

This fund was to be operational country-wide and was specifically intended for female students beyond Standard V1 for 3 years. This fund had to have a Board of Trustees whose duties included investment, utilization, accounting and auditing of funds. The president, secretary, and treasurer of NCAW were to be the ex-officio members of this committee. The treasurer had to draw up an audited financial statement to be presented at every annual meeting.

It is pleasing and important to note that to this day all branches of the NCAW still contribute towards the Chamberlain’s Bursary Fund.

Info from:
Thokozile Hiatywayo, History of National Council of African Women.  Marshalltown, South Africa:  Seriti Sa Sechaba Publishers, 1985.  ISBN 0620-11754-4