Maureen served as the deputy chairperson for Khulumani Western Cape from 2000 to 2003, and was elected provincial chairperson from 2003 to 2006. Before the launch of Khulumani Western Cape in 2000, she was at the forefront of the Trauma Centre’s Ex-Political Prisoners and Torture Survivors group. She was also a long-standing board member of the Human Rights Media Centre, Kenilworth, Cape Town.
Many will remember her as an exhibition guide for Breaking the Silence: A luta continua, a travelling exhibition when it was hosted by the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, the Slave Lodge in Cape Town and the Slough Museum in Slough, UK. She was a contributor to the documentary We Never Give Up I (2002) and II (2012). In this production by the Human Rights Media Centre, Khulumani members speak about their life as victims of apartheid-era crimes then and ten years later. A few days after the internal screening of part II, she passed away at 59 years.
Maureen was born in the KwaZulu Natal province in 1952. Her father had to leave for exile and she was sent to a convent. In 1971, she met her husband. He was shot dead by the security forces of the apartheid regime while she was pregnant. In the 1970s, Ms Mazibuko became involved in the liberation struggle in Cape Town and was frequently jailed. She was tortured with acid which reached her spinal cord. Together with thousands of other Khulumani members, she lost all her belongings in the Crossroads fires of 1986, and was one of the first persons who settled in today’s Philippi township.
Maureen testified to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission about the atrocities she had lived through. The final reparations paid out to her six years later were not even sufficient to build a home. For the last year of her life, she moved to her son in Mfuleni. All the years before, she had lived in a shack next to her unfinished house in Philippi.
With her strong spirit and her fierce manner, she was absolutely instrumental in building a strong victims’ movement. She did not fear to speak up to authorities. As a generous and eloquent leader, she was an inspiration to many Khulumani members, and touched the hearts of those who had the chance to meet her.
Tragically, Maureen had lived what Khulumani has been fighting against the past two decades. Although Khulumani had empowered her to feel like a survivor and not a victim, her health and experiences of torture and other forms of apartheid-era violence finally caught up with her. From 2007 onwards, Khulumani members could witness how her injuries from the past increasingly affected her. She felt too weak for an operation of her dislocated arm; an injury which resulted from the police chasing her. She stepped down from the executive but remained a faithful and dedicated member in her community.
Maureen Mazibuko (*November 02, 1952, †August 27, 2012)