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Tutu attends funeral of union leader who was a beacon of hope for black workers.

By: stagedoorscribbler - July 24, 2017

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photograph by Hattie Miles

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was among prominent mourners at the funeral of trades unionist and human rights campaigner Emma Mashinini last week.

Hundreds of people packed the St Albans Cathedral in Pretoria for the service in tribute to the woman who fought tirelessly to improve the rights of black workers during the struggles against the apartheid regine.

Nobel Peace prize winning Archbishop Tutu, who  described her as a beacon of hope against evil forces, said:  “This is a fantastic tribute to a wonderful person. She was vibrant and not a coward. She stood up against a lot of evil forces and I'm proud that she was African.”

It was a spirited send-off for the 87-year-old founder of the South African Commercial-Catering and Allied Workers Union

Mashinini, who started working in the garment industry when she was just 14-years-old, quickly became a union organiser.  Her formidable negotiating skills helped win a 40-hour work week and unemployment insurance for the workers.

She also campaigned for the inclusion of women leaders during the founding of the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Mashinini remained active during country’s transition to majority rule and later served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as becoming a Commissioner for Restitution of Land Rights.

*Clive Conway is chair of the Tutu Foundation UK