Patricia de Lille
4 April 2003
"When my opponents attack me, I don't go crying in a corner like a little sissy and say, 'Oh you know they’ve attacked me, I'm a woman.' I just wait for the next opportunity and return the punch. That’s how I behave in Parliament and obviously, not everybody likes it," says Patricia de Lille, the firebrand former Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) MP, in a new biography written by journalist Charlene Smith.
De Lille is no sissy, that's for sure. Two years of death threats for publicly questioning state corruption in the controversial R43-billion arms deal have not stilled her quest for justice, political accountability, and human rights.
She has been suspended from Parliament for threatening to reveal the names of MPs alleged to have been apartheid-era spies, and has challenged all politicians to have HIV/Aids tests.
Smith's well-written and researched biography, titled simply "Patricia de Lille" and published by Spearhead, offers an astute look into the private and political life of everyone's favourite politician - besides former president Nelson Mandela, that is.
Nelson Mandela called her his favourite opposition politician. "She is a very strong, principled woman", he has said of her.
The pairing of author and subject is apt. It is clear that Smith has a keen admiration for De Lille’s work as a champion of those marginalised by society - women, children, HIV-positive people, the poor, the homeless. Smith says that de Lille has been one of the most vocal female politicians in the fight against sexual violence and HIV/Aids.
Smith, herself a rape survivor, is a woman unafraid to speak out against abuse of all forms. "I didn't keep quiet under apartheid, and I won't be silent now," she says of her tireless campaign to make drugs and support accessible to people with HIV/Aids.
The book is both a deeply personal journey into De Lille's life, tracing the deep roots of her family tree, and a close look into the pan-Africanism that shaped the politician's political consciousness.
You will read about de Lille’s pregnancy when she was in standard nine - then "a shame" in the community - the death of her niece from a rare form of cancer, and in the same year, the brutal rape and murder of her youngest sister.
Smith's book also documents De Lille's own battle with cancer of the larynx.
Her father Henry Lindt, a teacher, was her first political idol, De Lille says; he instilled in his children pride in being African. Robert Sobukwe, the founder of the PAC, was her second political hero. "Sobukwe's belief that an African was anyone who gave allegiance to Africa, regardless of their skin colour, resonated with me. It gave me an identity and a home."
A biography on de Lille has been a long time coming; this one is worth the wait.
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