For many people, it seems counter-intuitive to have a pacifist for a Deputy Defense Minister.
For Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, it couldn’t make more sense. Nozizwe’s pacifism, anchored by her Quaker faith, was forged during thirty years of mediating conflicts between warring factions. Her experience demonstrates that the fight for social justice does not have to include violence.
Nozizwe first became politically active in the 1970s, amidst the oppressive conditions of South Africa’s apartheid regime. During those harsh days, she met her future husband, a South African Quaker who was an anti-apartheid activist — and who is white. Together, they turned to Christianity as a tool for resolving conflict, and as a sustaining resource in the face of adversity. As she explains, “I learned to understand that God is in everyone. This was an important transformation for me.” Soon after, Nozizwe became a pacifist.
Notwithstanding her commitment to that doctrine, Nozizwe was jailed three times for her affiliation with the African National Congress, the last time spending one year in solitary confinement without a trial.
After her release, Nozizwe went on to mediate intra-black conflicts outside of Durban, and helped draft an historic, post-apartheid constitution for South Africa in 1991. In both undertakings she emerged as an unwavering advocate for women, for their unique capacity in peacemaking and for their equal rights as citizens. After serving in Parliament for most of the 1990s, President Thabo Mbeki appointed her Deputy Minister of Defense in 1999. In this role, Nozizwe adopted a holistic approach to security, including the establishment of an African Peace and Security Council, AIDS prevention programs, and a greater role for women in conflict resolution.
Until August 2007, Nozizwe served as South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Health, leading an effort to ensure that AIDS patients receive the best possible treatment. For many years, Nozizwe balanced her political, public work with a focus on working for the rights of women. In 2008, Nozizwe was formally appointed as ANC parliamentary caucus chair, but in 2009 she decided to leave and complete a Bachelor in Social Science degree in Philosophy at the University of Cape Town. Gender equality issues quickly rose to the top of Nozizwe’s work and in 2010, Embrace Dignity, a nonprofit organization that advocates for legislation to end sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, was born. She also became involved with Right to Care and Right to Care Health Services, a company that provides comprehensive care and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS.
Today, Nozizwe can be found advocating for laws that would free women from sexual exploitation and end prostitution. She continues to build peace both in her own country of South Africa and across continents, connecting with fellow Peacemakers in Action José ”Chencho” Alas and Hind Kabawat in different Network Interventions.
This video was made possible by grants from Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Henry Luce Foundation. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of Tanenbaum. Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action program is also supported by the Leir Charitable Foundations.
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