Who was Ruth First and why did the apartheid regime assassinate her?

Who was Ruth First and why did the apartheid regime assassinate her?

South Africa is commemorating the 36th anniversary of the assassination of anti-apartheid activist Ruth First.

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On 17 August 1982, First was going through her mail at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique, when a letter bomb exploded and killed her.

Historians believe her assassination was planned by the apartheid regime. Briefly.co.za looks at who she was and why she was targeted.

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First was born in Johannesburg on 4 May, 1925. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

She became involved in radical politics at a young age. Her parents were founding members of the Communist Party of South Africa.

The young activist became involved in student politics at the University of the Witwatersrand. She became a journalist and continued her anti-apartheid activism through the media.

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First's investigative journalism revealed to the world the harsh conditions facing black people in apartheid South Africa.

She got married to Joe Slove, himself a prominent figure in the struggle, in 1949. Together, they worked underground with the Communist Party following its banning in 1950.

First was a founding member of South African Congress of Democrats in 1953, which worked closely with the ANC.

In 1956, First and Slovo were among over 150 activists arrested and charged with treason for their anti-apartheid activities. However, they were acquitted after four years.

Following the Sharpeville Massacre and the banning of the ANC in 1960, First went to exile in Swaziland. She returned upon the lifting of the state of emergency.

However, she was arrested soon after the infamous Lilliesleaf Farm raid in 1963 that netted the Rivonia trialists, including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.

The apartheid regime detained First without charge for 117 days, after which she joined her husband in exile in the UK.

She continued her investigative journalism and academic work there. In 1977, she took up a position as research director at the Centre for African Studies at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique.

It is here that she was eventually assassinated in 1982.

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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