Coast KZN

01 Sep 2016

Ruth is watching…

Juan Venter (South Coast Herald)

Fisheries protection vessel. the Ruth First.

Fisheries protection vessel, the Ruth First was spotted conducting routine patrols on the South Coast.

NO, it was not a ghost ship patrolling our coast last Sunday evening.

But, it was the government,  and yes, they are spying – but for illegal fishing operations.

Fisheries Protection Vessel Ruth First was spotted conducting routine patrols on the South Coast near Scottburgh.

She is the second of three ships which were designed by Damen Shipyards of Gorinchem in Netherlands and built by Farocean Marine (Pty) Ltd in Cape Town.

The ship, launched in 2005 is equipped to carry 12 crew members and three fishery inspectors.
Spanning a length of 47m, the  Ruth First is capable of remaining at sea for 14 days. The vessel was named after journalist, academic and political activist Ruth First, who was born on May 4, 1925.

As a result of her parents being founding members of the Communist Party of South Africa, Ruth grew up in a household in which intense political debate between people of all races and classes was always present.

Attending the University of the Witwatersrand from 1942 to 1946, her fellow students included Nelson Mandela, Eduardo Mondlane and her future husband, Joe Slovo, whom she married in 1949.
Ruth became editor of The Guardian after briefly working for the Johannesburg City Council. As a journalist, First specialised in exposés and her incisive articles regarding very poor working conditions, boycotts and the women’s anti-pass campaign became some of the best pieces of social and labour journalism in the 1950s.

First helped found the Congress of Democrats in 1953.
As a result of a banning order, First was unable to attend the Congress of the People at Kliptown in 1955.

A year later, First along with her husband Joe Slovo were arrested and charged with treason. The trial lasted four years ended with First and Slovo – as well as the other 154 accused – being acquitted of all charges.

Come 1963, First was again arrested following the arrest of members of the underground African National Congress, the SACP and Umkhonto we Sizwe in Rivonia.

Another trial followed in which political leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki were sentenced to life imprisonment.
First, however was not among the accused, but was rather detained in solitary confinement under the notorious 90-day clause. Shortly after her release she fled with her children to join her husband in Britain.

There she threw herself into anti-apartheid politics and campaigns in support of the ANC and SACP.

She was appointed professor and research director of the Centre for African Studies at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique in 1977. There, she began working with migrant labourers, especially those working on the South African gold mines.

First was killed by a letter bomb in 1982  following the UNESCO conference on August 17. It was discovered that the letter had originated from military sources within South Africa.
Her funeral -which was held in Maputo – was attended by presidents, members of parliament and ambassadors from 34 countries.

Ruth and Joe Slovo had three daughters: Shawn, Gillian and Robyn.


Online Article