Page last updated at 20:12 GMT, Thursday, 1 January 2009

Your reaction to the death of Helen Suzman

Suzman and Nelson Mandela outside his Soweto home in 1990
Suzman visited Nelson Mandela while he was in prison

Helen Suzman, one of South Africa's foremost anti-apartheid campaigners, has died at the age of 91.

For 13 years, Mrs Suzman, was the only MP to openly condemn South Africa's whites-only apartheid regime.

You've been sending us your comments and memories of meeting Helen Suzman.


I was still very young here in South Africa, but for some reason I became aware of this remarkable woman. As I grew up I became aware of her as someone who was fearless, not afraid of telling the ruling party what she thought. People should also remember that it was a time of Pik Botha, Van Zyl Slabbert (PFP) and we needed someone from 'their' side to tell them what was wrong with apartheid.
Thulani, Durban, South Africa

I first came to know of her when I was at High School in Durban and had joined the ANC Youth League in 1957, under Fathima Meer and Sam Kikine. Helen was the lone 'white' voice that supported our cause - for that I reserve extreme honour and admiration for her. It is a pity she did not step out of her capitalist umbrella and join the likes of Joe Slovo and Ruth First in the field. However, she did her bit.
Hanif Manjoo, Johannesburg, South Africa

I was privileged to form part of a fact finding mission to South Africa, fielded by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, shortly after the release of Nelson Mandela. The very first personality we met was Helen Suzman. The meeting took place at her residence in Johannesburg. I realised then the extent of my ignorance of the history of South Africa and the abhorrent ideology of apartheid. She did not mince her criticisms of the blatant complacency of the west vis-a-vis the racist regime of her country; and was very confident that she will live to see the hideous face of apartheid wiped out.
K Ruhee, Port Louis, Mauritius

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Mrs Suzman at Parliament and at her house. Feisty and outspoken, Suzman refused to speak to one parliamentarian whom she said should be excoriated for his pro-apartheid views. The next year at lunch at her house, Suzman laughed at the new South African flag. She said it looked like a neon sign in Vegas. She then took me on a tour of the security fences outside of fancy homes in Sandton, in the suburbs of Johannesburg. In her office she was speaking to Mandela's lawyer about what to do about Mandela's errant son, who later died of AIDS. A treasure of a woman, not soon to be forgotten.
Elizabeth Barad, New York, United States.

I met Helen Suzman only once when she came into the BBC Johannesburg studio for an interview on BBC World TV. This was in 1994 during the first post-apartheid elections. She treated me with enormous warmth and good humour and when I escorted her back to the car park she talked to me as if I were the most important person she'd ever met! We discussed how important cats were in our lives! I, a total stranger, felt like her favourite nephew. She was wonderful. What courage she showed in standing up to the likes of P W Botha and in criticising the ANC when she felt it had made mistakes in government. An unforgettable woman.
Jack Thompson, London, UK

When I was in my mid teens, we lived in Norwood, Johannesburg which was part of her Houghton constituency. In the early 70s, if memory serves, she was the sole member of the Progressive Party in parliament, and I assisted the party by canvassing around Houghton. She would come into the constituency office to gee up the troops periodically and I found her to be a forceful yet kindly and understanding person. She was a woman whom, once met, you never forgot, and I was terribly saddened to hear of her death today.
Sean Adams, Hampshire, England

I met Helen Suzman a number of times over the past 15 years when I lived in South Africa. I had always admired the courage and tenacity of her stance against the Nationalist Party and its policies. She was an example to all of us who 'hate bullies and believe in simple justice.'
Anthea Johnston, Cebazan, France

Helen Suzman was a beacon of hope for black South Africans in the apartheid era. Way back in the 1970s in my native Africa, I constantly read about Mrs Suzman and her struggles against apartheid, and her fight for justice and equality for a freer society. I lost a hero.
Malik, Toronto, Canada

A great tree has fallen, a great woman is gone, a nation has lost a treasure. South Africa, you have lost a great woman.
Daniel, Darko, Accra, Ghana

I knew little about Mrs Suzman. It came to me as complete surprise that a white woman frequently visited Mr Mandela's cell in Roben Island. I'm really overwhelmed by the courage of this wonderful woman.
Momin, Chittagong, Bangladesh

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