ZAM Reporter

35 years after her assissination | Remembering Ruth First

Picture: Portrait of Ruth First.  Ruth First Papers Project. The Slovo family album, Volume 1. Reproduced here with the kind permission of the Slovo family.

On the 17th of August 1982 the South African freedom fighter, journalist and scholar Ruth First was assassinated by a parcel bomb sent to her by apartheid dead squads. Thirty-five years later, First is remembered as a courageous and stubborn activist against white supremacy and male domination.

She was a defendant in the Treason Trial of 1956 – 1961 alongside 156 other leading anti-partheid activists who were key figures in the South African Congress Alliance. First was listed and banned during the state of emergency that followed the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. As a consequence, First could not attend meetings or publish, and she could not be quoted. She was imprisoned in 1963 and held in isolation without charge for 117 days under the Ninety-Day Detention Law. After her release she went into exile in the UK and Tanzania. In 1978 First took up the post of director of research at the Centre of African Studies at the Universidade Aduardo Mondlane in Maputo, Mozambique. When she was 57 years old First was assassinated on the order of Craig Williamson, a major in the South African Police.

First wrote extensively about the colonial occupation of South West Africa, Namibia today, abuse of power by African despots, Western investment in Apartheid and the exploitation of Mozambicans miners in South Africa. She was married to Joe Slovo, a commander in the ANC's armed wing and leader of the banned communist party.

Today, Ruth First, the daughter of Latvian jewish immigrants and founding members of the communist party, is an inspiration to all who cherish the dream of a democratic society based on the principles of equality, non-racialism and non-sexism.

Source: and

Learn more by visiting the created digital archive of the work of Ruth First:

View the flickr photo album by Ruth First Papers Project.