LionLife Assurance, a 100 % black-owned assurance company based in Cape Town, celebrates its 100 year anniversary.
LionLife Assurance was established in 1923 and was originally named the APO Burial Society. The company was founded by South Africa’s largest political party at the time, African People’s Organisation (APO).
Under the leadership of the former APO president, Dr Abdullah Adurahmaan, the political party not only engaged in the fight against colonialism and the Union of South Africa but was also dedicated to representing and advancing the interests of black and coloured communities on a political and economic level.
This has been well documented in Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and Thabo Mbeki’s 1999 presidential speech.
The APO Burial Society was founded by former APO Vice President and prominent community figure, Stephen Reagan. Today, Reagan’s legacy lives on with the Stephen Reagan Sports Field in Westridge, Mitchells Plain.
The goal of the APO burial society was to ensure that black and coloured people were not subjected to the indignity of a pauper burial.
With this dedication and service, APO gained the trust and respect of its communities. By 28 February 2001 there were 8172 members.
The Burial Society was later led by Isaac Volkwyn (South Africa’s first coloured lawyer). Despite making a living from his law firm, Volkwyn did not charge the APO for his time. Volkwyn was known as a fierce defender of policyholders’ interests.
As president of the APO for more than 30 years, Abdurahmaan made many strides that advanced the organisation. Including the APO Building Society which was formed in 1919.
The purpose of the building Society was to provide home loans to people living in areas such as the Bo Kaap and District Six who had difficulty obtaining financing from financial institutions. This later became the Cape Town Terminating Building Society.
Another important focus of the APO was education.
Abdurahman led the fight against the Cape School Board when he launched an investigation against the lack of benefits provided to coloured and black children. This discourse led to the establishment of the first coloured high schools namely, Trafalgar High School in 1911 and Livingstone High School in 1934.
APO was acquired by Fred Robertson’s company, Commlife Holdings Proprietary Limited (“Commlife”), in 2002 after the regulators put pressure on the APO board to either sell the or close the company. In that year the name of the company was officially changed to Lion of Africa Life Insurance Company Limited.
According to Fred Robertson, Chairperson of LionLife, it is important to continue the legacy of Dr Abdurahman, Reagan and Volkwyn. “The APO had a deep heritage within our communities and at LionLife we will continue the story begun by APO.”
In 2020 the company underwent a rebranding and is now called LionLife Assurance. The core values inherited from the APO still remain relevant: To Stay true to the vision of its founders.