Writer’s legacy is ongoing

It was a bittersweet moment when the Winnie Rust Foundation was launched on Saturday 11 May – the third anniversary of the Afrikaans authors’ death.

Nigel Plaatjies, whom Winnie had mentored and helped financially, and his uncle Johannes Plaatjies are currently serving life sentences for her murder in her Wellington home.

The launch took place at The Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Gordon Reid, administrater of the foundation and Winnie’s son in law, said they want her to be remembered for what she was trying to do at the time of her death rather than for her senseless murder.

“It is our wish that today be seen as a celebration of Winnie’s life and more specifically a celebration of the compassion and desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others. On Sunday 8 May 2016 we had the privilege as a family to celebrate Mother’s Day for all the mothers in our family, and Winnie Rust was one of them.

“At one point during the meal there was an opportunity as children to tell the mothers how much they mean to us – to tell Winnie how much she meant to us. Little did we know it would be the last opportunity we would have, because three days later she was murdered by someone to whom she had been a mother for many years. This is just one of the many ironies that marked this senseless tragedy.”

According to Reid, what Winnie was trying to do at the time of her death, remains inspirational.

“She was endeavouring to play a role, however small, in helping those less fortunate than herself by providing opportunities to disadvantaged people who came across her way to rise above their circumstances, to live as she did with open arms. What she was doing for Nigel Plaatjies was a beautiful thing, and it is this legacy we as a family would like to perpetuate.”

The goal of the foundation is to provide educational and training opportunities for poorly resourced people in the Western Cape Winelands. This will be done both through financial and mentoring assistance. The foundation set up a bank account last year and started raising funds through donations enabling it to already help several people from the beginning of this year.

The beneficiaries also attended the launch, and each spoke about how the foundation has impacted their lives. This includes two boys from Calling Academy and Genevieve Zongolo from Kayamandi, who is a law student at Unisa.

Winnie’s granddaughters, Emma and Helena, summed up the hope the family has for the foundation.

“Today, with the launch of the foundation, we want to ensure her story does not end in a violent senseless manner, but rather that it becomes the beginning of hopeful opportunities for others,” their joint statement said.

The foundation also sponsors two awards, the Winnie Rust Award presented, annually by the Wellington Museum to an inspiring woman who makes a difference in her community, and the Huguenot High School Creative Writing Prize.

The foundation, registered as a public-benefit organisation, is based in Brandwacht.

V For more information, visit info@winnierust.org.

V Donations can be made through the organisations’ Back-a-Buddy page: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/charity/profile/winnie.

V For more information, contact Helena at helena.reid1967@gmail.com.

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