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Foot Soldier for Freedom
FOOT SOLDIER FOR FREEDOM
This book could have been a love story but seeing that Rica Hodgson knew no other life outside politics, she’d had to write about “a life in South Africa’s liberation movement” which she began at the tender age of 23.
As you read this, she is 94.
This is the story of her life with her husband, the late Jack Hodgson, the man the apartheid forces considered their greatest threat as he taught black Africans in uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the then banned ANC, how to make bombs. Having lived in flats all their life, it was in the kitchen of their Hillbrow flat that Jack, assisted by his son Spencer, ground potassium to manufacture explosives for MK who, when they were formed in December 1961, had no arms to pick up when they opted for armed struggle.
When Jack died in London in early December 1977, he was 67.
The youngest daughter of a Polish Jew who hated communists and Gentiles with equal measure, Rica took to communism like fish to water. In Jack she found more than a soul mate and when they were both kicked out of the country, they remained unrepentant avowed communists. At one point before life under apartheid became untenable for them, they were banned and, as husband and wife, had to seek special from then Justice Minister BJ Vorster to speak to each other!
Apart from her first job as a nurse when she left school, Rica had never done anything with her life but work for the liberation movement. A true foot soldier, she was active in the logistics side of the struggle against apartheid, working to organize food for the delegates to the 1955 Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto, where the Freedom Charter was adopted.
At the time, she was banned but still found a way to pick up vegetables from sympathetic business people in town to prepare meals for Kliptown. During the Treason Trial, she worked as a fundraiser for the trial Fund.
Life in exile meant nothing but furthering the aims of the ANC. Even when she returned after 27 years in exile, it was to a life of ‘servitude’ to the ANC – working as secretary, at age 70, for the late Walter Sisulu.
The book tells the story of a singular life dedicated to the cause of freedom. It was a life that left time for little else. Even when the Hodgsons socialized, it was with other struggle couples, among these Ruth First and Joe Slovo; Lionel and Hilda Bernstein.
In April 2007 Rica received the Order of Luthuli from then President Thabo Mbeki.
When I returned to speak to her in August , it was after meeting her in Bloemfontein where President Jacob Zuma was handing out military honours to former MK cadres. Jack Hodgson was posthumously presented with the Platinum Class III medal.
Though she said she wished it had come 35 years ago, Rica was elated. Her life with Jack had come full circle.
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