We at the Nelson Mandela Foundation have been deeply saddened to hear of Rica Hodgson’s passing. Our condolences to her family, friends and comrades.
Rica was a veteran of struggle, an anti-apartheid activist throughout her adult life, a freedom fighter, and an exile between 1963 and 1990.
Our Director of Archive and Dialogue, Verne Harris, collaborated with Rica and her son Spencer on her memoir which was published in 2010 as Foot Soldier for Freedom: “Rica was a remarkable person. For me she exemplified a steely determination to keep doing what needs to be done even in the direst of circumstances – with grace, and with humour.”
In the 1950s Rica spent time in prison and was issued with a series of house-arrest orders. She and her husband Jack participated in the armed struggle of the African National Congress. Jack was one of the founding members, alongside Nelson Mandela, of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC.
They fled South Africa months before the Rivonia Raid in which the police caught leading members of MK. In the subsequent Rivonia Trial Jack was cited in the indictment as a ‘co-conspirator’ of the accused to recruit people for military training and carry out acts of sabotage to carry out a ‘violent revolution’ against the apartheid regime. Jack died in 1977. Rica became a leading figure in the international anti-apartheid movement, and is perhaps best-known for her long and important contribution to the International Defence and Aid Fund.
When she returned to South African in late 1990 Rica quickly resumed her close friendship with Nelson Mandela, who had been released earlier that year. She became Walter Sisulu’s personal assistant.
In 2007 President Thabo Mbeki presented her with the Order of Luthuli.
In her book Rica quotes her comrade Cecil Williams talking of departed freedom fighters: “They have joined the young dead soldiers. They continue to speak to us at night and when the clock counts. They say: ‘We have done what we could. It is you who must finish what our lives gave.’”
We salute you Rica for a life lived well and in service of the people of South Africa. Hamba Kahle.