Florence Mkhize


By Londi Mteshane

Florence Mkhize was born in 1932 and raised at Umzumbe, on the South Coast of Durban.

‘Mam Flo’ as she was popularly known, became politically active at an early age and became one of the most active women leaders in the apartheid struggle led by African National Congress.

Mkhize, Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi, and Ray Alexander founded the Federation of South African Women in 1958, which fought for the rights of black women who were doubly oppressed because of their race and gender.

Mkhize actively participated in various struggle marches including the 1956 Women’s March in Pretoria against the Pass Laws which forced black people to carry special identities at all times. They were prevented from continuing the march and were forced to return home.

Florence Mkhize was a passionate ANC supporter and was prepared do anything to further the cause of the organization. After the ANC was banned in 1960, she remained active as a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), and organiser for the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) until these organisations too were suppressed.

In the 1980’s during the education and housing crises she led the people of Lamontville Township. 'Mam Flo' was among the founding members of the United Democratic Front (UDF) formed as an internal surrogate of the banned ANC in 1983. She worked determinedly with other ANC stalwarts like the late Victoria Mxenge and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, to mobilise women across racial barriers.

Mkhize was presented the Bravery Award from the ANC Women’s League in 1998, and a Military Gold Medal from former President, Nelson Mandela at the Umkhonto WesiZwe (MK) Military Veterans Conference in 1999.

She passed away on 10 July 1999 of a heart failure. ‘Mam Flo’ will always be remembered for her steadfast and courageous opposition to apartheid. In tribute to Florance Mkhize, Durban’s Municipal building, Martin West, in Smith Street was named after her on 21 March 2005.

Source: www.sahistory.org.za