Nomhlangano Beauty Mkhize (1940 - )
The Order of Luthuli in
Profile of Nomhlangano Beauty Mkhize
Nomhlangano Beauty Mkhize was born in Sophiatown on 12 April 1940. She is a stalwart of the liberation struggle in South Africa and a strong advocate for the improvement of the conditions for particularly rural women. Her family’s removal from Sophiatown to Meadowlands heralded a future which was to be defined by the struggle against forced removals.
Mkhize worked in a textile factory from 1965, serving some time as a shop steward. She married Saul Mkhize and in 1980 went to live in Driefontein, where the community was threatened with forced removal from their legally owned land. Driefontein and Daggaskraal farms were bought by the South African Native Farmers’ Association in 1912, just prior the noto-rious 1913 Land Act, through the help of Pixley ka Izaka Seme, one of the founding members of the African National Congress (ANC) and its first treasurer general.
Mkhize dedicated her life to the advancement of the struggle for freedom and democracy in the rural areas. Her active involve-ment in the Transvaal Rural Action Committee led to her election as chairperson of the Rural Women Movement in Driefontein in 1980.
In 1975, in its pursuit of racial segregation, the apartheid government indicated its intention to remove the people of Driefontein and resettle them in various areas in different provinces according to their ethnic background – a move that was shelved until 1983. Driefontein was regarded as a black spot and the people had to be removed despite having title deeds to the land.
Mkhize and her husband were heavily involved in the struggle against forced removal, helping the community to engage lawyers through the Black Sash in Johannesburg. Many people in Driefontein were opposed to the removals and Mkhize’s husband was elected chairperson of the Driefontein Council Board of Directors to replace a more pliable predecessor who had acquiesced to the removal. The apartheid police killed her husband, Saul, in April 1983 during a Forced Removal Committee meeting in Driefontein, Piet Retief.
Mkhize took his place in the committee. During the time of the fight against removals, she also had to endure the pain of her son’s assault by nine men as a result of his parents’ resistance to the removals.
Mkhize mobilised the community relentlessly against forced removals. She juggled this with assisting with harbouring political activists when they were skipping the country to fight apartheid. Also, she led the Rural Women’s Movement, which addressed various issues such as women’s rights and particularly sharing experiences with other women affected by forced removals. Despite the constant threat of removal and some divisions in the community, Mkhize resisted the removal and managed to mo-bilise the people against it. She challenged the authorities to dig her grave and bury her in Driefontein instead of removing her. Eventually, after constant resistance and numerous representations to the authorities, the apartheid government relented and in 1987 it informed the community accordingly. Through Mkhize’s efforts and dedication, the people of Driefontein stood their ground and triumphed against forced removals. From 1994 to 2005, Mkhize served in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature as sergeant-at-arms for two terms. In recogni-tion of her role in the service of the Driefontein people and in the legislature, Premier Ndaweni Mahlangu presented her with a Service Excellence Award in August 2000.
Through their collective work with the Black Sash and the Legal Resource Centre, Mkhize and her colleagues spread the Rural Women Movement to other areas, which now include Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Northern Cape.
Nomhlangano Beauty Mkhize opted for a risk-laden existence, fighting against injustices when she could easily have remained submissive. She is still an active community member. She is chairperson of the National Movement for Rural Women, deputy chairperson of the Masibuyele Emasimini Project in Driefontein, one of the premier’s projects promoting farming. She is also an active ANC Women’s League member, serving on the committee responsible for parliamentary candidates’ provincial listings.