Florence Mkhize

Names: Mkhize, Florence

Born: 1932, Natal

Died: July 1999

In summary: Participated in the Defiance Campaign in 1952, which led to her being banned,  worked underground with the FEDSAW, member of the SACP and an organiser of the SACTU, founding member of the UDF in 1983. Member of the  NOW. Recipient of the Bravery Award from the ANC Women’s League in 1998, and a Military Gold Medal from Nelson Mandela at the MK Military Veterans Conference in 1999  

Florence Grace Mkhize, widely known as 'Mam Flo', was born in 1932 in Natal. At a young age she decided she wanted to fight against apartheid and the oppression of women, and so joined the Congress Movement. She participated in the Defiance Campaign in 1952, which led to her being banned. She did not give up, and continued to communicate with her comrades through the sewing factory where she worked.

The next project with which Mkhize got involved was the Freedom Charter, where she was appointed as a volunteer to participate in writing the Charter. However, on the way to Kliptown her bus was stopped by police and sent back. She next planned to participate in the Women’s March in 1956 in Pretoria, but was once again sent home after her bus was stopped by police. The liberation of women was always high on Mkhize’s agenda, and she worked underground with the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) together with - and among others - Helen Joseph and Dorothy Nyembe. In 1957 she participated in the Potato Boycott against the sale of ‘Ons Land’ cigars. In June 1968, Mkaize was banned for five years under the Suppression of Communism Act.

After the banning of the African National Congress (ANC), Mkhize continued in the struggle as a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and an organiser of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) until these structures were suppressed too. 

During the 1970s Mkhize led the Release Mandela Campaign in Natal. In the 1980s she led the people of Lamontville during the education and housing crisis and was among the founding members of the United Democratic Front in 1983. She also worked with the Natal Organisation of Women (NOW) in an attempt to get support from women from other racial groups. In thanks for all her work, Mkhize received the Bravery Award from the ANC Women’s League in 1998, and a Military Gold Medal from Nelson Mandela at the MK Military Veterans Conference in 1999.

She died in July 1999.

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