We pay tribute to Helen Kotze, 1921 - 2013


Helen Kotze, quietly courageous opponent of apartheid and injustice, staunch member of the Black Sash and the Christian Institute (CI), died on 21 January 2013 at the age of 92. A memorial service will be held on Thursday 7 February at the Roseband Methodist Church at 2.30 pm.

Wife of the Rev. Theo Kotze, mother of five children, she was steadfast in her support of all of them, and stood with Theo against all the threats and attacks on him and the CI, eventually following him into exile.

The Christian Institute opened its offices in Mowbray in 1969, opposite the railway station. At that time the Black Sash Advice Office was in Sybrand Park, where it remained until a petrol bomb was hurled into its premises. Not surprisingly, the lease was terminated since there had been previous attacks on the office. The Christian Institute offered space in its building, and the Advice Office remained there until the terrible day of 19 October 1977 when the CI was banned, along with many other organisations.

Helen and Theo left so much that they loved behind them, and met many difficulties in their enforced new lives, first in Holland and then in England. They continued to work for the anti-apartheid cause, and Helen was known for her calm and gentle personality, offering a welcome to others and comfort and help to Theo.

They returned to a newly liberated country for which they had sacrificed so much. Helen took up the threads of her life once more, renewed the friendships she had valued, many of them with other members of the Black Sash. When the Order of the Baobab was awarded posthumously to Theo in 2008, Helen was proud and delighted. It was generally believed that she had contributed to his achievements in no small measure.

She will be remembered for her commitment and her grace.

Mary Burton
Black Sash Trustee
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Read the Cape Times obituary, 8 February 2013