Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum (JPF) stalwart and Cosatu trade unionist Geraldine Kennedy, 51, has died – just six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer of the womb.
Her brother, Wayne Weitz, said her concern for the workers’ plight was sparked when she left Modderdam High School in Grade 11 and started working at the then Grand Bazaars supermarket.
“It was there where she got involved in organising workers with the Retail Allied Workers’ Union. That is where her activism started. Her political schooling was nurtured only around the workers’ struggle. That is where she really made her mark.
“She was also instrumental in establishing the South African Domestic Workers’ Union. She was a leader who organised from the back. Gerry was also involved with the social movement and upliftment projects, working with the vulnerable and seniors at church. She always pushed young people to aspire to higher goals, and she was an unselfishly giving person,” Mr Weitz said.
Speaking about her health challenges, Mr Weitz added: “She knew that she was not well, but like the person she was, she only showed it until she couldn’t anymore.
“Her death comes as a huge loss to the family and also to the trade union movement. We will always remember her as the only woman who was capable of taking charge in a surrounding (trade industry) where men were dominant.”
At the time of her death, Ms Kennedy was involved in Cosatu’s cancer testing awareness campaign, aimed at highlighting the economic constraints faced by those with cancer and the difficulties in getting treatment at public hospitals.
Ms Kennedy died on Monday June 13 and was buried on Saturday June 25.
In a social media post, her friend, Sakeena Corner, challenged Bonteheuwel residents to continue doing the good work Ms Kennedy did for her community, to keep her spirit alive. “How are we going to let her spirit live on? What are we going to do? How are we going to let her life and what she did, have meaning and make an impact to bring change to what is happening in Bonteheuwel, a place where she lived and loved? I am sad, angry and confused,” Ms Corner said.
Cosatu regional secretary Tony Ehrenreich described Ms Kennedy as “the backbone” of the regional movement.
“She was the most talented union official I have ever encountered.
“She was brave, committed and always stood by her principles. She was an invaluable part of the Cosatu office and was the backbone of my organisation for the past 10 years.” Ms Kennedy leaves her son, her mother, four sisters and two brothers.