Cissie Gool Memorial

Landmarks / Memorials in or near CBD, City Bowl in Cape Town, South Africa.

Western Cape Tourist AttractionsCissie Gool Memorial

Where? Longmarket Pedestrian Mall, Buitenkant and Plein Streets, Cape Town Central, City Bowl

Overnight? Accommodation in CBD, in Western Cape

Zainunnisa 'Cissie' Gool was the only woman to serve on Cape Town's City Council at a time when she did not have the right to vote, representing District Six between 1938 and 1951.

She was said to be a woman way ahead of her time, and was known as Cape Town's Joan of Arc.

Born the daughter of the 'doyen of coloured politics in the Western Cape', Dr Abdullah Hbdurahman, the leader of the African Peoples Organisation (APO) and the first black South African elected to the city council in 1904, it was obvious that she would become politically outspoken herself.

Cissie grew up in a household where education was paramount. She and her sister were educated by governesses. Later she attended a school founded by her father - Trafalgar Public School - and her family entertained the likes of Olive Schreiner and Mahatma Ghandi.

Her father was the first Muslim to enrol for the South African College after which he studied medicine at the University of Glasgow where he met Helen James, Cissie Gool's mother.

Yet when she stood for election for the Cape Town City Council in the 1930s it was from her father, brother-in-law Goolam Gool, his sister Jane and her own husband, Isaac Bangani Tabata, that she received opposition. The attitude of most men at the time was that women should be housewives.

Cissie Gool belonged to a group of politically aware individuals known as the new 'radicals' of Cape Town, who went on to form their own political party - the National Liberation League (NLL).

She subsequently led a breakaway faction becoming its first president, supporting the idea of a 'United Working-Class Front'. The main thrust of her politics was a new order of black unity and working-class alliances. She actively rejected any engagement with sympathetic white politicians.

And then she ran for a seat on the City Council, first in 1937 and then again the following year, when she won Ward7, including District Six. In 1962, after receiving an LLB degree at UCT, she was the first woman of colour called to the Cape Bar.

It was not only in politics that Cissie Gool was considered outrageous. In 1938 she left her husband for Sam Kahn, a Jewish lawyer and trade unionist 14 years her junior. They lived for 15 years together as a mixed couple.

Cissie Gool died at 66 years of age, just a year after her admission to the Supreme Court, of a massive stroke. She was posthumously awarded the Order of Luthuli for her contribution to the liberation struggle.

Ruth Sacks was commissioned to create a memorial for Cissie, as part of the Sunday Times 100 year Heritage Project. Today this series of granite blocks lines Longmarket Pedestrian Mall between Buitenkant and Plein streets.

Find it: next to Cape Town College, behind the Drill Hall.

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