Zelda Holtzman was a student and youth activist since the late ‘70s participating in worker solidarity campaigns and student and youth organisations. As a young woman in the early ‘80s, she served on the Steering Committee formed to herald the first non-racial women’s organisation in South Africa, the United Women’s’ Organisation (UWO) and was elected onto its first executive. She was an active cadre in the underground structures of the ANC and the SACP from 1980 until the unbanning of political organisations. After her release from detention in 1983, she was restricted from teaching and worked as a trade union volunteer with MWASA (Media Workers Association of South Africa). As an active member of civic, youth and women’s organisations in Mitchells Plain, she helped to form and build the UDF (United Democratic Front), a broad front against Apartheid. She has been involved with #UniteBehind, a broad coalition of People’s Organisations, formed to fight against corruption and state capture, since its inception in 2017.
In 1995 Zelda was appointed to the Change Management components of the South African Police Service to assist in the transformation of the apartheid police force. She was deployed to the Western Cape as the Deputy Provincial Commissioner of the South African Police Service in 1999 and resigned from the SAPS in 2003. Zelda was appointed on various high-level United Nations Commissions of Inquiry into accountability and violence in post-conflict settings. Her last formal position was head of Protection Services at the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa.