Rocklands activist celebrates her 80th birthday

Mymoena Richards, among the first Rocklands residents, celebrates her 80th birthday.

Mymoena Richards, a community activist and one of Rocklands first residents, celebrated her 80th birthday at The Farm on Sunday May 23.

She, her husband, Achmad, and their eight children moved into their three-bedroom Buccaneer Street home about 40 years ago, from a one-bedroom house in Retreat.

Ms Richards, one of seven children, grew up in Wetton, and she lived there during the early years of her marriage.

It was while living in Retreat that she noticed that her neighbours were being moved into bigger homes.

She went to the local rent office to ask how she could get one too.

“I wrote to the City council, and I explained that boys and girls cannot sleep in the same room and that our one-bedroomed house was too small for our eight children,” she says.

The family were allocated a bigger house in Mitchell’s Plain, where Ms Richards raised her children, while her husband worked at a hotel.

She was on the stage at the UDF launch at the Rocklands community hall on August 20 1983. She says she worked behind the scenes of the organisation but was active in fighting for basic human rights.

“My children were at Glendale High School and they came home one day, saying that the police had thrown teargas and had barricaded the school.”

This was shortly after Nelson Mandela was released in 1990 but before the country’s first democratic elections.

“So, the next day, I went with my children to school and despite the chaos around the school, we, the parents formed a chain around the pupils so that they could not be harmed, and we walked to Westridge, the mosque, where we got lifts to Alexander Sinton High School, in Athlone, being told that we would be able to see Nelson Mandela.”

The crowd was then told that Mr Mandela would be at the then Hewat Training College, in Crawford.

Ms Richards had prepared her children in the event of being separated during the clashes with police, by giving them travelling money and something to eat.

While sitting in the middle of Kromboom Road, the police hit her and a few other protesters. She was scarred on her shoulder and arm and would later testify about this before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“I got R30 000. I did not do it for the money but for my children and for it to be documented in history,” she says.

Ms Richards – who has 23 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren – was among the founding members of the Mitchell’s Plain Network Opposing Abuse and made it her business to participate in the neighbourhood watch.

She says she has seen some tough times in life, but her faith has always pulled her through. “My parents always taught us to abide by Allah’s laws and to have faith,” she says.