In Memory of Black Sash Stalwarts

Tribute to Di Andrews

I am Wendy, Di’s younger sister, but not the youngest, as that honour falls on Judy, our baby sister living in the UK. Our enlarged family was made up of Di, brother John, Wendy, Lorna, Romy and Judy. We have said goodbye to John and Romy, and now to Di.

When our Mother died in 1938, I was just five years old.  Di, eight years older, was at boarding school in Grahamstown. 

 For me, in that instant of my mother’s death, Di became not just a big sister, but a substitute, a surrogate mother, and an embedded friend.  There was, about Di, a quality that shone like a bright light, a glowing beacon.  She had the ability to transcend, to lift herself above the sad, sometimes tragic, circumstances that were so much part of her journey, and always to find joy.

Gifted, highly intelligent, profoundly wise, generous, with the most wonderful sense of humour, creative, artistic, beautiful herself, she loved beauty, colour.  She loved people, and was an extraordinary listener.    It was perhaps this, coupled with her natural warmth, that made her a light to so many.   It is that radiance, that most epitomises the person she was, who loved deeply, and who, in turn was surrounded by love.

Much of that love was expressed in her dedication to family, one of the most important aspects of her life. Surrounded by one or all of her five girls, Bev, Sally and Caro, Jean and Di. They were the mainstream of her life. She was the true matriarch of her family, whose lives and happenings so intermingled with her own.  I may add that I am blessed to have four such wonderful nieces.   (Jean, sadly, has long not been with us), who have lovingly nursed and cared for Di through her long illness, each contributing in her own unique way.  

We should never forget three important links in the chain of Di’s life, Olga, also one of Di’s loyal nurses, Thandi, now living far away, but also having Di on her visiting list when she was at home, and dear Sabu. Today, this Church is filled with family and friends, all of us here to honour, and also to grieve.

Di loved music, and my memory bank recalls my sister, reacting as always to the pulse of music, from classical to jazz, and even to the soulful keening of the bagpipes. She embraced that Scots sound as she embraced our mingled heritage, with an English mother and a Scots father, and an upbringing that made us children of Africa. She loved justice, fairness, integrity.  Perhaps it is these qualities that led her to the Black Sash in the apartheid era, and to becoming an anti-apartheid activist of that time.

 It is no co-incidence that Di loved angels.  She gave them away, people gave them to her. To many, as to me, she was herself an angel. Strongly spiritual, my sister was a person of much goodness and light.

Today we honour the amalgam of those qualities that made up a person forever unforgettable, our Di. We mourn.  We celebrate. We hold our memories dear.

I thank God for the life of my sister.

Wendy Jackson (past member and active in the East London Advice Office and in the organisation in KZN).


Diana Margaret Andrews, known to her friends and Black Sashers as Di, died on 22nd August 2016 at the  wonderful age of 92.  Her funeral was at Christ Church, Constantia just around the corner from her daughter, Caro’s home where Di spent the last couple of years of her life.

Every Thursday morning Di and I worked in the Black Sash Advice Office in Mowbray.  She was a deeply committed worker and loved by our staff.  Theo Mokomele and her daughter, Pelisa together with David Viti and his son were at Di’s funeral together with some ten of our “elders” to pay our last respects to this very fine member of our organization.  Sue Townsend, coordinator of our Advice Office paid tribute to Di’s commitment to justice, her dedication to her work for the organization and commented on the splendid human being Di was to all who crossed her path.  I had the special privilege of watching Di work in the Advice Office with patience, grace, kindness, empathy and deep respect for all who sought her help. 

The church was filled with beautiful flowers arranged by Jinny Mullins and Sally Cristini (one of Di’s four daughters), both Black Sash members.  The soft lines, deep colours and the white of lilies and Arums combined to reflect the gentle splendor of who Di was.  The deep fragrance of Jasmine trailed over the altar rails filled the air as did the Narcissus we were all invited to place on the coffin.    At Di’s request the congregation joined in singing John Lennon’s Imagine and the moving poem, Beannacht was read to us, also chosen by Di.

A stirring rendition of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes accompanied Di and her family on her way as we emptied the church and enjoyed the company of friends and family over a splendid tea.

We salute you and will never forget you and what you meant to us, Di.

Di Oliver

27th August 2016

We pay tribute to Rodney Davenport

Rodney Davenport, noted historian, defender of civil rights, enthusiastic mountain walker, and one of the earliest and most supportive ‘associate members’ of the Black Sash, has died in Cape Town on 2 July 2016.

He came to South Africa during World War II as a schoolboy and went on to study at Rhodes University, Oxford and UCT.  He became professor of history at Rhodes and he and his wife Betty (a founder member of the Black Sash) were actively involved in the Grahamstown community.  Rodney was a city councillor, where his knowledge of the history of land tenure strengthened the successful campaign to save Fingo Village from being destroyed by apartheid’s forced removal plan.

His meticulous work on South Africa’s history led to the first publication in 1977 of his South Africa: A Modern History, which has been republished several times and used as an essential reference ever since.

When he retired and settled in Cape Town, he became a valuled member of the Civil Rights League committee.  The Black Sash pays tribute to a friend and colleague who has left a legacy of scholarship and commitment to upholding the rights of all people.

We pay tribute to Jan van Gend

janvangendJan van Gend was one of the lawyers who gave of his time freely and generously to the Black Sash’s Cape Town Advice Office  to defend pass law ‘offenders’.  Many people charged with contravening the Pass Laws accepted arrest, prosecution and paying a fine as part of the hazard of living in Cape Town without the required permission in terms of the Urban Areas Act.  If the Advice Office came to know of the arrest of someone the day before they were due to appear in the Langa Pass Law Court, and they requested an attorney to represent them, the Advice Office had a short list of attorneys on whom it could call for assistance.  Jan was one such attorney.  He was always willing to juggle his schedule to assist the Black Sash and those who it sought to serve.  He represented Pass Law offenders so frequently that he and David Viti, who worked for the Black Sash Advice Office and did much of the work at court, developed an excellent working relationship and became a well-known legal team at the Court.  It was seldom that those arrested were acquitted, but being represented by an attorney often resulted in being sentenced to a suspended fine, or a lesser fine than if they had not been represented.      

Everyone who worked in the Black Sash Advice Office warmed to Jan because he was such a warm and understanding person who was as rigorously committed to opposing the Pass Laws as the Sash.

dimollyjanWhen Molly Blackburn and Di Oliver (then Bishop) were charged with contravening the Pass Laws by entering Lingelihle in Cradock without the required permit, Jan defended them in the Cradock Court.  He did not achieve an acquittal for the two offenders, but they were grateful that they were given only a warning and were not fined. 

Jan was the Member of the Cape Provincial Council for Constantia for the (then) PFP during the same period as Molly and Di.  With his sharp legal mind and skilled debating ability, Jan was an outstanding MPC.  He was an unwavering, principled opponent of apartheid whose contribution to standing on the side of the dispossessed and disenfranchised will not be forgotten.   In 1987 he was elected unopposed to become the Member of Parliament for Groote Schuur.

A Capetonian by birth, Jan attended Rondebosch Boys High School and when he studied law, attended Stellenbosch University.  He was a well-known sportsman (hockey, sailing and golf) and opened his own law practice in 1979. 

The Black Sash is indebted to Jan for his unfailing support of the organization and those who it served and extends its deepest sympathy to his wife, Ellen, his sons Carel and Simon and all his family.

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