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Anti-apartheid figurehead Helen Suzman dies aged 91.

VETERAN South African anti-apartheid campaigner Helen Suzman died yesterday aged 91.

Her daughter Frances Jowell said she died peacefully at home in Johannesburg.

The family is planning a private funeral this weekend with a public memorial in February.

Helen Suzman had a special place in South African history, being generally recognised as the most effective parliamentary fighter against apartheid policies.

For 13 years - from 1961 to 1974 - she was the sole representative in Parliament of the liberal Progressive Party, forerunner of the Democratic Party.

Mrs Suzman was born in Germiston, Gauteng, on November 7, 1917 to a Jewish Lithuanian immigrant couple.

In 1937, aged 19, she married doctor Moses Meyer Suzman. The couple had two daughters.

She became an MP for the opposition United Party (UP) in 1953, and retired from politics in 1989. During her parliamentary career she was hailed as apartheid's most effective parliamentary critic and a thorn in the flesh of the government.

Mrs Suzman was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1978 she received the United Nations Award for Human Rights.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela, whom Mrs Suzman visited on Robben Island during his imprisonment there, has referred to her as "a remarkable South African woman".

In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Mr Mandela said of Suzman: "It was an odd and wonderful sight to see this courageous woman peering into our cells and strolling around our courtyard."

Neath MP Peter Hain, who grew up in South Africa and campaigned against apartheid himself, paid tribute to Mrs Suzman.

He said: "She was a doughty champion of human rights and a thorn in the side of the apartheid government in some of the most difficult, darkest times."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Jan 2, 2009
Words:285
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