Rica Hodgson — the freedom fighter who rescued me 52 years ago
This post is harder to write than I expected.
I was at my desk and about to write Rica a letter when I learnt that she had died. It was not unanticipated. She was 97 and had been in frail health for a while. I had only just completed another, perhaps final, re-edit of my 1966-1967 memoir When I was Bad which tells how I met Rica and how she rescued me.
Rica Hodgson is one of the leading South African freedom fighters celebrated by South African History Online (SAHO). On this amazing site, you can read her biography and those of many other significant figures in the anti-apartheid movement.
Rica is also someone to whom I owe an immense debt.
A long friendship from London through Lusaka to Johannesburg
When I first knew Rica she worked in the Welfare Department at Defence and Aid in London channelling aid to apartheid prisoners and their families.
I wasn’t part of that remit but she helped me anyway. Without her I might have lost my child and ended up on the streets seriously depressed and suicidal. In April 1966, I was alone, poor and pregnant. Rica became my friend.
She was at my wedding in 1969, I visited her when I could, went to her 80th birthday party in London, stayed with her in Joburg, went with her to the ANC offices where I met her boss Walter Sisulu, met her in Lusaka, Zambia, and talked of her experiences at Solomon Mahlunga Freedom College in Tanzania.
A time of secrecy and danger
Everything to do with the anti-apartheid struggle and the African National Congress and with Rica’s work was dangerous until Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa.
For 30 years it was essential to keep silent so as not to endanger the freedom movement.