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Pioneering South African legislator to speak at Stanford

STANFORD -- Helen Suzman, who for many years was the solitary opponent of apartheid in the South African Parliament, will speak at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, in Kresge Auditorium. Her lecture, "Transformation in South Africa - Cause and Effect," is free and open to the public.

Suzman is visiting the university at the invitation of Stanford Law School to receive the Jackson H. Ralston Prize in international law. The Stanford prize, which includes a cash award of $30,000, is made for original and distinguished contributions to the development of the role of law in international relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Prior to the lecture, Suzman will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. in Room 185 of the Stanford Law School. After her talk, she will meet informally with faculty and students at 2:30 p.m. in the Manning Faculty Lounge of the law school.

Widely admired for her staunch opposition to apartheid, Suzman has received numerous honorary degrees and awards, including the United Nations' Human Rights Award. She was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Suzman first was elected to the South African House of Assembly in 1953. For 13 years, from 1961 to 1974, she was the only member from the Progressive Party in parliament and the only member to oppose apartheid legislation. For some of that time, she was also the only woman out of 165 members of parliament.

Suzman has been called "a bridge between the black and white communities," but some of her positions have been controversial, both in South Africa and around the world. She opposed economic sanctions against South Africa, for example, arguing that without a welfare support system the common people would suffer the most from rising unemployment.

Suzman gave up her parliamentary seat in 1989, just months before the South African government made the first moves to dismantle apartheid. Since then, she has been active as the president of the South African Institute of Race Relations, and she was a member of the Independent Electoral Commission that organized the general elections of 1994.

In 1993, Suzman published In No Uncertain Terms: A South African Memoir, a retrospective of her career. In his introduction to the book, Nelson Mandela describes Suzman's life as "a magnificent battle against apartheid." In the book, Suzman voices the hope that "finally released from the shackles of apartheid, South Africa will become the workshop of the African continent."

The most recent recipient of the Ralston Prize was Václav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, in 1994.



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