South African revolutionary to be honoured 17 years after her death

A woman born in Easebourne who became a national heroine in South Africa and was described by Nelson Mandela as a 'South African revolutionary and a lady of the British Empire' is to be honoured 17 years after her death.

The grave of Helen Joseph in Soweto is to become a National Heritage Site and now the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) is trying to trace her relatives in West Sussex to inform them of the dedication ceremony.

At the same time there are moves to put up commemorative plaques in Easebourne recognising her birthplace.

Jane Haycock has lived in her former family home, Crescent Lodge, since l982.

"I knew nothing about her until last year when I went to a talk about her in Midhurst. Hers is a fascinating story. I hope we can do something as a memorial here in Easebourne at the same time as the dedication ceremony takes place in South Africa."

Associate Lecturer in History at the University of Chichester, David Rang, has extensively researched and written her life story. He said the dedication plans in South Africa were a fitting tribute to her memory.

"She campaigned against the evil of apartheid and demanded full equality for all races.

"She fought apartheid, not out of a political ideology but because of her clear sense of right and wrong."

Helen moved to South Africa in 1931 where she became a close friend of Nelson Mandela.

She was put on trial alongside Mandela. She was also the first person in the country to be placed under house arrest.

She inspired a South African national holiday – August 9 is Women's Day because of the mass demonstration that she led on the same day in 1956.

It is on August 9 this year that the dedication ceremony will take place.

After her death in 1992, her funeral was conducted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Her eulogy was delivered by Nelson Mandela.

Mr Mandela also made reference to two of her relatives – Clive and Jeremy Fennell – who were present at her funeral in 1993.

However, attempts to track them down have so far been unsuccessful.

Anyone with information about her relatives is asked to contact cmuller@sahara.org.za