Helen Suzman: Fighter for Human Rights tells the story of Suzman’s rise as the leading Member of Parliament to oppose apartheid legislation during 36 years of public service. Meticulously selected photographs, personal letters, speeches, political cartoons and news articles convey the tremendous strength she demonstrated while facing constant animosity, antisemitism and intimidation from other South African Parliamentarians, colleagues and citizens.
Helen Suzman was one of South Africa’s most vociferous and energetic opponents of apartheid. She takes pride of place among those who devoted their lives to the fight for human rights and the rule of law in South Africa. From the start of a political career that spanned almost four decades, she worked tirelessly, never flinching from challenging the pernicious system created by apartheid.
Helen Suzman’s struggle against ruling National Party, both within and outside of Parliament, was relentless and often lonely. For thirteen years (1961-1974), she was the only Member of Parliament from the Progressive Party. Against great odds in Parliament, she resisted the pro-apartheid government. Although she represented an affluent White constituency, she saw herself as an “honorary ombudsman for all those people who have no vote and no Member of Parliament.” Her contribution to the pursuit of justice in South Africa received overwhelming recognition at home and abroad. Twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, her valiant stand against the injustices of the apartheid regime was acknowledged by numerous institutions.
Helen Suzman’s tenacious fight for human rights led her to a great friendship with Nelson Mandela. “She is a person appreciated by all South Africans,” wrote Mandela on the occasion of Helen’s 90th birthday in November 2007. “Her courage, integrity and principled commitment to justice have marked her as one of the outstanding figures of our history.”