By Devan Moonsamy CEO of The ICHAF Training Institute
How much do you know about Nomalizo Leah Tutu (86), the wife of Desmond Tutu (87)? The dynamic couple have been married for almost 65 years. Mrs Tutu has always been a stronghold for the Archbishop. She is highly accomplished and has devoted her life to workers’ rights and education, among other causes.
Nomalizo’s half century of activism has seen tremendous success and brought relief to the lives of others. It has also empowered and inspired others to keep pushing the workers’ movement forward.
Fighting for domestic workers’ rights
In 1981, Nomalizo Tutu co-founded the SA Domestic Workers Association. The organisation grew into the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (Sadsawu). Sadsawu is part of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) which operates in 20 countries.
The seeds sown by Nomalizo and her comrades almost 40 years ago have flourished and now form part of an organised global labour movement. What is more, an exciting development in domestic workers’ rights is taking place in South Africa now.
The Second IDWF Congress was held in Cape Town in November last year. Keynote speaker Shawna Bader-Blau stated, ‘South African domestic workers are about to win equal standards for health and safety and wages. When we stand together, South African domestic workers will win.’
Bader-Blau is referring to an amendment to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida). The legislation excludes domestic workers from its definition of an employee. This encourages the harmful view that domestic work is not ‘real’ work.
Thus, in the case of an occupational injury, illness or death, domestic workers cannot claim from the compensation fund. Sadsawu correctly highlights that this exclusion of domestic workers is ‘irrational and unconstitutional’. We currently await the amendment to the Act, which will be a landmark victory for workers’ rights, and we are truly grateful to the Tutu matriarch for engendering activism for domestic workers.
The Tutu legacy continues
Nomalizo received an honorary doctorate from the National Louis University based in Chicago, a university that has a long history of success in education rights and the education movement. She also worked as a teacher and her children are highly educated and have followed similar paths of dedication to serving others as their parents did.
Eldest daughter Thandeka Tutu-Gxashe is a researcher in HIV treatment, and runs various charity foundations. Second daughter Nontombi Tutu is a human rights advocate and leads the Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville in the US. Mpho Tutu-Van Furth, the youngest daughter, runs the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, is a trustee of Angola University, and has co-authored two books about her father.
There is a rose cultivar created by Peter Beales in the UK named ‘Leah Tutu’ after Mrs Tutu. The rose flowers into a dense arrangement of golden yellow-orange petals. These colours fittingly symbolise joy, endurance and success. The rose itself is a symbol of hope, while its thorns represent protection. What a wonderful way to think about the sterling woman Nomalizo Leah Tutu.
Devan Moonsamy is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, available from the ICHAF Training Institute.
The book tackles contemporary issues in the South African workplace, including a variety of diversity-related challenges and how these can be addressed. It is an excellent guide for managers to harnessing diversity for success.
ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates.