Lillian Masediba Ngoyi
Born Lilian Masediba Matabane
25 September 1911
Died 13 March 1980 (aged 68)
Nationality South African
Other names Mma Ngoyi
Known for Fighting Apartheid
Grave of Lillian Ngoyi in the Avalon Cemetery
Lillian Masediba Matabane Ngoyi "Mma Ngoyi", (25 September 1911 – 13 March 1980), was a South African anti-apartheid activist. She was the first woman elected to the executive committee of the African National Congress, and helped launch the Federation of South African Women.
Prior to becoming a machinist at a textile mill, where she employed from 1945 to 1956, Ngoyi enrolled to become a nurse.
1 Political activism
2 Memorials and honours
She joined the ANC Women's League in 1952; she was at that stage a widow with two children and an elderly mother to support, and worked as a seamstress. A year later she was elected as President of the Women's League. On 9 August 1956, Ngoyi led a women's march along with Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, Motlalepula Chabaku, Bertha Gxowa and Albertina Sisulu of 20,000 women to the Union Buildings of Pretoria in protest against the apartheid government requiring women to carry passbooks as part of the pass laws.
Lilian Ngoyi was also a transnational figure who recognised the potential influence that international support could have on the struggle against apartheid and the emancipation of black women. With this in mind she embarked on an audacious (and highly illegal) journey to Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1955 to participate in the World Congress of Mothers held by the Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF). Accompanied by her fellow activist Dora Tamana, and as an official delegate of FEDSAW, she embarked on a journey that would see an attempt to stow away on a boat leaving Cape Town under "white names", defy (with the help of a sympathetic pilot) segregated seating on a plane bound for London and gain entry to Britain under the pretext of completing her course in bible studies. With Tamana, she would visit England, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, China and Russia, meeting women leaders often engaged in left-wing politics, before arriving back in South Africa a wanted woman.
Ngoyi was not an intellectual, rather she was known as a strong orator and a fiery inspiration to many of her colleagues in the ANC. She was arrested in 1956, spent 71 days in solitary confinement, and was for a period of 11 years placed under severe bans and restrictions that often confined to her home in Orlando, Soweto.
Memorials and honours
The Koos Beukes Clinic at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto has been renamed Lilian Ngoyi Community Clinic in her honour.
On 16 November 2004, the South African Ministry of the Environment launched the first vessel in a class of environmental patrol vessel named the Lillian Ngoyi in her honour.
On 9 August 2006, the 50th anniversary of the march on Pretoria, Strijdom Square from which the women marched was renamed Lilian Ngoyi Square. 9 August is commemorated in South Africa as Women's Day.
In 2012, Van der Walt Street in Pretoria was renamed Lillian Ngoyi Street. Other roads in Cape Town, Thembisa, Berea, Durban, and Hartbeesfontein have been named in her honour.
The City of Johannesburg decided to honor Mme Lilian Masediba Ngoyi by renaming the Bree Street in Johannesburg after her in 2014 - the street named Lilian Ngoyi Street.