A Plea for Lilian - Naude

From Beyers Naudé, May 12, 1977

On May 12, 1977, Beyers Naudé wrote to Mrs Hedi Meinhold-Vielhaber, a citizen of West Germany, to report on a meeting he had had with Lilian Ngoyi. The letter was written on the letterhead of The Christian Institute of Southern Africa, which Naudé founded in the early '60s.

The coal stove which she is presently using is in a hopeless condition and within the coming winter it is most urgent that a proper stove should be installed in her home.Dear Mrs. Meinhold-Vielhaber,

Following my letter of April 14 I wish to state that I have had the opportunity of personally meeting Mrs. Ngoyi and discussing at length with her her personal domestic and financial position as well as the possibility of her banning order being lifted.

Regarding her domestic and financial position I wish to report as follows:

1. Mrs. Ngoyi is in urgent need of a pair of glasses (spectacles) for her eyes which have been giving her very serious trouble for some time. I have arranged with her to have her eyes tested and to obtain a pair of glasses, the price of which will be R53,35. Though a contribution made by two or three sympathetic persons in Johannesburg this amount has been obtained and Mrs. Ngoyi would hopefully receive her spectacles within the next two or three days.

2. I have furthermore ascertained that the existing furniture in Mrs. Ngoyi's house is not only scant but also out-worn and partly broken with an urgent need for a new bed (divan) with headboard and mattress, plus a wardrobe for her clothes. In addition to this the coal stove which she is presently using is in a hopeless condition and within the coming winter it is most urgent that a proper stove should be installed in her home. We have obtained a quote for the above materials from a firm in Johannesburg which we regard to be very reasonable at the sum of R741,75. I shall suggest to Mrs. Ngoyi that we buy the bed, headboard and mattress as well as the robe from a second-hand dealer at a total cost of no more than R200 but I wish to strongly recommend that we accept the quotation of R373,95 for the installation of the above stove.

3. Monthly expenditure: You are undoubtedly aware that Mrs. Ngoyi has to pay R12,13 per month as rent for her house plus an additional approximately R4,00 per month for electricity. In addition to that she has had to erect a fence around her house (for reasons of personal safety) at a cost of R200 of which she has already paid four monthy installments of R10 p.m. I think therefore, with the R160 still outstanding. Mrs. Ngoyi calculates her monthly expenditure on food, clothing, medicines, etc. would amount to + R100 p.m. of which R150 p.m. is being contributed by your group - for which contribution she is dearly grateful.

4. Education of grandson: As you know Mrs. Ngoyi has undertaken the responsibility of the care and education of her grandson, Neo (aged 16) of whom the mother is an alcoholic. With the student unrest in Soweto last year he was unable to write his exams and he only went back to school last Monday. He had to enter a new school where the school uniform (which is obligatory) amount to R56,00 plus school fees for R10,00 which she has to pay before the end of the month.

5. Illness of brother: Mrs. Ngoyi has an aged brother, George, 68 years old, who tried to obtain livelihood during the Second World War by being employed as a manual labourer for the army. His jaw was fractured so seriously that his face was never properly restored with the result that this has affected him psychologically very deeply. He has no war pension and at the present moment he is seriously ill in the Pietersburg district of Northern Transvaal. He is regarded as a mental case with hospitalization urgently required, but without Mrs. Ngoyi having any means to support him and with nobody else being able to give any support in view of the fact that he is unmarried and that she is the only relative who could possibly give any financial support.

I am enclosing for your information, a Photostat copy of the invoice for the glasses (Bifocals) as well as the quotation for the furniture and the stove. I shall be grateful if you could let me know as soon as possible whether the group supporting Mrs. Ngoyi or any other is able to make contribution to the above costs, with the exclusion of her glasses, for which we have raised the necessary funds in Johannesburg.

Regarding the possibility of the lifting of the banning order I wish to state that this is being discussed in order to see whether anything could be done in this regard. We hope to convey to you any suggestion which may be forthcoming in the future about possible steps which could be taken in this direction, although we are not very hopeful that anything positive or concrete could come out of such an effort at the present moment.

Yours sincerely,

C.F.B. Naude

P.S. May I remind you that, in view of the fact that the Christian Institute has been declared an affected organization in May 1975, our organization is not allowed to receive any funds from overseas into the Christian Institute account. A financial contribution to Mrs. Ngoyi would therefore have to be made to her personally or to another individual or organization which is entitled to receive such financial support on her behalf.


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"I am hoping with confidence that, before I die, I will see change in this country."
Lilian Ngoyi
Lilian Ngoyi at her sewing machine.
Picture: © Bailey’s History Archive


Personal letters as historical sources

Working with personal letters is an excellent way of encouraging learners to want to know about people and events in history. They can potentially create an emotional empathy with people who lived in the past.

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