‘Lady Library’ turns focus to community

Denise Robinson, 71, now chairs the Durbanville Heritage Society.
After three terms as a shadow minister, Denise Robinson, 71, now chairs the Durbanville Heritage Society, following her retirement from  politics, putting an end to a 23-year career of serving the community. 
“I do not think I am one of those people who can just relax and do nothing,” said the Durbanville Hills resident. 

“So that meant that the decision to come back to the DHS was an easy one and I have identified areas that will need my immediate attention.” 

The former shadow minister for women in the presidency, who retired following the May elections, said that her passion for politics started at a young age while growing up in Border, Eastern Cape. 

She said: “Growing up with my grandparents at their farm, I had many friends, but when I went to school, I noticed that none of my friends was there, and when I asked my mother why this was the case she said certain people had to go to certain schools because of their skin colour, and this made me very upset, and I asked a ton of questions. 

I was only six 6 years old at that time, but I still continued to question, which made me realise that I had a passion to right the wrongs of the past and give the voiceless a voice.”

Despite her passion, Ms Robinson took her time to get into politics after she started a career as a teacher in 1970. 

She moved to Cape Town to take up a teaching post in 1972, and while she enjoyed teaching, her love for politics was still there. 

“When my children, Andrew and Louise, finished school and were on their way to build their own lives, I decided that the time is now right for me to pursue my true passion, and I became the Tygerberg proportional representative councillor for the Democratic Party. Since then, I have worked on many projects, and I even visited the United Nations (UN) a few times.” 

Ms Robinson said she had dealt predominantly with women’s and children’s rights and had also helped to establish laws benefiting the disabled.

A former Eversdal ward councillor, she was called up to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in 1999. 
When I started at the NCOP, there was a big issue surrounding libraries and the fact that they were closing down all over Cape Town. You see at that time, the budget for libraries was tied in with sports, and, of course, all the money was going to sports. This was a big issue for me, and it was one that I spoke about so much that they started calling me Lady Library.” 

In 2004, Ms Robinson said a law she lobbied hard for was passed in 2004 that ring-fenced library budgets.
“I had lobbied Trevor Manuel and Naledi Pandor about this issue and when it passed, Mr Manuel gave me a special mention in his speech. I was extremely happy that the law was passed, for the simple fact that education is important to me, so this was a huge achievement.” 

Ms Robinson said she had worked for 10 years in the Atlantis area, focusing on women abuse, improving schools and tackling child trafficking and prostitution.
She also started many groups in the northern suburbs area such as the DHS, Friends of the police, library and the nature reserve, while she was also responsible in opening the skate park in Sports Way in Durbanville and played a big role in the establishment of the helped to set up the DA Women’s Network (DAWN). 

Danetta Smit, who took over from Ms Robinson as the ward councillor for Eversdal, when the latter was called up to the NCOP, said: “Denise was always enthusiastic about her job, and she was a great fund-raiser. What made her so special was that she did not simply just boss people around, but instead she encouraged relationships and promoted teamwork. 

When she was busy helping people, she would actively get them to join in as well and this saw her build relationships even in areas where she never worked before.” 
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