Sybil Wakefield was born in Cape Town in 1941, and grew up in District Six, a vibrant, inner city multicultural area for so-called Coloured people. Sybil began her teaching career in Cape Town in the 1960s, and began voicing concerns about the racist education system with the education department.
Sybil’s family lived with the harsh realities of the Apartheid era, the racist laws determining where people of different backgrounds lived, who you could marry, what you were paid, the school you went to, where you could eat, drink, swim and quality of health care and services you received.
District Six was declared a Whites Only area in 1966 under the Group Areas Act and families, including Sybil’s were forced to move out into the Cape Flats, an area much further away from town.
Despite how much she loved Cape Town, her extended family and close knit community, Sybil found life in South Africa increasingly difficult and immigrated to Australia with her immediate family in 1971.
As the situation in South Africa escalated in the late 70s and 80s, Sybil became a driving force and spokesperson in South Australian anti-Apartheid and ANC support groups, organising protests, boycotts and events, raising awareness and funds that were critical to the international movement to end Apartheid. Sybil’s relentless spirit, grit and determination helped bring unions, churches, politicians, students, businesses, groups and individuals together in the name of human rights and in solidarity with the people of South Africa.
In acknowledgement of her role in the anti-Apartheid struggle, Sybil was invited to the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela in 1994 as a guest of the ANC Women’s league.
Sybil died in 2020 in Adelaide after being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2018. She was 79 years old.
Reflections on apartheid from the late Sybil Wakefield. This is part 1.
part 2 Sybil Wakefield on the African blood that goes into diamonds