In Memory of Black Sash Stalwarts

Tribute to Mr Sipho Bani

It is with great sadness that the Black Sash has learnt of the passing of Mr Sipho Bani. He was 90 years old. 

The Black Sash would like to extend our sincerest condolences to Mrs Bani and the rest of the family.

Mr Bani was a kind, gentle, generous and fearless soul. He joined the Black Sash Hands Off our Grants (HOOG) campaign after spending several months, at great cost to himself, trying to get assistance to dispute unlawful, fraudulent and unauthorised deductions from his'SASSA branded' Grindrod bank account.

Mr Bani willingly shared his story to help put the scourge of unlawful deductions on the national news agenda so that the plight of social grant beneficiaries would be heard.

Until the last days of his life, he courageously spoke truth to power ensuring that the challenges facing social grant beneficiaries could no longer be ignored.

Thank you for standing up for those who could not speak for themselves!

We will miss you. May your soul rest in peace.

Hamba kahle Mr Bani…

Tribute to Bunty Biggs

Bunty Biggs, born in 1919 of missionary parents in Bangalore, India, who became a committed Quaker, social activist, and stalwart of the Natal Midlands Black Sash, died in England on Monday 13 November 2017.

A social worker who worked for Quaker Relief, she spent time in post-war Germany working with displaced persons, particularly children.

She then lived in Pietermaritzburg from 1954 until 1981, playing an important role in the community. Bunty was clear thinking and concerned with matters as diverse as forced removals, education of young people, and conditions in townships, believing that all people deserved equal rights.

In the early fifties, when Bunty visited Edendale Hospital, where her husband, David, worked as an orthopaedic surgeon, she described being completely taken aback by the huge wards, crowded with people, and was particularly distressed by children sitting in cots with nothing to do. She arranged for people in England to send gifts on a regular basis over a long period of time. Toys and games were soon followed by clothes and handicraft materials which enabled poor women in Edendale to organise sewing groups.

Shortly after settling in Pietermaritzburg, Bunty joined the Natal Midlands Black Sash and the Liberal Party. She was particularly impressed that all who accepted the principles and practices of the Liberal Party were welcomed regardless of gender, class and race. She also considered it an important learning place because of the stimulating meetings which provided insights into the lives of people whom she didn’t normally meet on a social level.

Bunty served on the committee of the Natal Midland Black Sash for twelve years, chaired the region for three years, from 1977 to 1979, and was an enthusiastic volunteer in the Advice Office. She was a vigorous correspondent to the local press, her letters on behalf of Sash or in her private capacity always relevant and challenging.

Bunty said that Black Sash protest stands gave her the opportunity to stand up and be counted, and were important, showing passers-by that the apartheid system was, unjust, unfair and unacceptable. She remembered protesters having stink bombs, and toilet rolls thrown at them, people shouting rude names, as well was the inevitable photography indulged in by the Special Branch.

In 1981 Bunty and her husband left South Africa to retire in England, leaving a strong legacy of their commitment to social change in South Africa.

Mary Kleinenberg


Tribute to Dot Erlank


Dot Erlank had lived in Cape Town for most of her adult life. She was a student at UCT where she achieved not only a BSc and a Masters in Applied Maths, but represented her university and province in swimming. She also lectured at the university.

She married Professor Tony Erlank and they had four daughters and three grandchildren.

Dot was an early and active member of the Black Sash in the days when the apartheid government made life so difficult for so many people. She was a very strong character who always believed in standing up against unfairness, and she had many stories to tell about those bad old days.

She developed emphysema later in life and became dependent on an oxygen machine day and night; but despite the many difficulties and irritations she must have suffered, there was never a word of complaint. Her friends will all recall her love of a party and her ability to sing a myriad of music hall songs. She will be truly missed by many of us.

-- Di Oliver


It is with sadness and regret that we have learnt of the passing of Dot Erlank on 13th September.  Dot was a dedicated worker and activist in the Black Sash during the 1970s and 1980s.  

The memorial will be on Tuesday 19th September at Rondebosch United Church, Belmont Rd, at 15h00.  Missed already by her four daughters Dominique, Vanessa, Natasha, and Cate: her grandchildren, Connor, Daniel, and Ella: and her darling sister, Nina, and loving friends. Donations in lieu of flowers.

Rest in peace, beautiful Dot


More Articles...