Florence Mophosho (1921 - 1985)
The Order of Luthuli in
Profile of Florence Mophosho
Florence Mophosho was born the first of three children, in Alexandra, Johannesburg, in 1921. Her father was chronically ill, and her mother (who had trained as a teacher) worked as a domestic worker. Because of the need to help her mother bring up the younger children, Florence left school at Standard Six and went to work, first as a domestic worker and later in a factory.
Inspired by the Defiance Campaign of 1952, Mophosho joined the African National Congress (ANC). She was first inspired by the leaders of Alexandra, which included Alfred Nzo and T T Nkobi. As she became more involved in the ANC, she met other leaders such as Moses Kotane, J B Marks, O R Tambo and Nelson Mandela. Learning from these leaders, she grew more determined to wage the struggle against apartheid oppression.
Mophosho helped to organise the Congress of the People, which adopted the Freedom Charter. She also took part in a house-to-house campaign in Alexandra, contributing to eliciting the demands of the people, which were later incorporated in the Freedom Charter. Later, she became a full-time organiser for the ANC and participated in many of the campaigns of that time. She was active in the women’s movement, organising, among others, the Transvaal demonstrations against passes for African women in Alexandra, and mobilising the nationwide anti-pass women’s demonstration on 9 August 1956.
In 1957, Mophosho was a member of the Alexandra Bus Boycott Committee. The repercussions of this boycott, which took place before the 1960 state of emergency and the banning of the ANC, were felt far beyond the boundaries of the then Transvaal. During the state of emergency, she went underground and continued to work as an organiser for the ANC. In the course of her work as an ANC stalwart she was arrested a number of times, before being banned in 1964.
Mophosho was instructed by the ANC to leave South Africa. She went to Lusaka and later to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She was sent to Berlin, in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), to represent the ANC’s Women’s Section at the Women’s International Democratic Federation, and remained in that position for four and a half years.
Mophosho met many women from all over the world. She compared their lives with those of her oppressed sisters back home. She became an internationalist. She spoke at numerous public meetings in the GDR, held radio and television interviews, and helped to strengthen the relations between the GDR, especially the women’s organisation, and the ANC.
Mophosho assisted with giving guidance to the ANC students in the GDR, drawing on her massive political experience. She had developed these qualities in South Africa, when she was a member of the Executive of the Federation of South African Women.
She was a delegate to the famous Morogoro Conference of the ANC in 1969. It was partly because of her experiences at the conference that she came to the conclusion that her role was in Africa. She returned in the early seventies and was elected in 1975 to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC. As a member of the NEC, she did her best to upgrade the women cadres in the ANC, and helped to put the Women’s Section on a higher pedestal.
Florence Mophosho stood out as an embodiment of courage, waging a multiple struggle against both racial and gender oppression she defied the forces of apartheid oppression and was committed to the overthrow of the oppressive system. Her fight for gender equality helped raise consciousness regarding issues of gender oppression in society to an even higher level.
Florence Mophosho passed away on Women’s Day, 9 August 1985.