About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Naidoo, Phyllis

Phylllis Naidoo was born in Estcourt, Natal, the daughter of Simon David, a teacher and principal.  In high school she became involved with the Friends of the Sick Association (FOSA) that had established a care centre and home for TB patients. After she matriculated from High School in 1945 she trained at King George V Hospital as a TB nurse aid.

She became involved with the Non-European Unity Movement in 1946. She later joined the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) where she met Nandha (Steve) Naidoo, George Sewpersadh, Dr Randeree and MD Naidoo and became involved in writing speeches for comrades. In 1958 she married MD Naidoo, a committed member of the SACP, and in 1961 she joined the Communist Party. She was banned in March 1966 and in 1967 MD was charged and sent to prison on Robben Island. Her banning orders were renewed until 1976.

She qualified as a lawyer in 1973 but could not practice until 1976 when her banning order was lifted.

On 23 July 1977, Phyllis escaped to Lesotho where she joined the ANC and became involved in welfare work: providing for children who had left South Africa, assisting members of the SACP and ANC to escape from South Africa and providing them with support in Lesotho.

While in Lesotho, Phyllis was Chief Legal Aid Counsel for the Lesotho Government but she was forced to leave Lesotho in 1983 when South African air strikes against Lesotho began and all its twelve borders were closed. SA wanted her out of Lesotho and warned the Lesotho government she would be killed. She had twenty-four hours to make her escape and on 9 September 1983 she fled and months later arrived in Zimbabwe. Despite more air strikes, she remained in Harare for seven years where she continued her political activities for MK, wrote speeches for comrades, taught at the Law Department of the University of Zimbabwe and helped people from South Africa find solutions to problems. She was actively involved in campaigning against the abuse of power by the apartheid government. She was particularly concerned with the prisoners, both political and criminal, on death row. She wrote Waiting to Die in Pretoria, which decried the inhumanity of capital punishment. She also put out a publication Le Rona Re Batho: An Account of the 1982 Maseru Massacre.

In 1990, she returned to South Africa and immediately went to visit prisoners on death row and Robben Island.

She now lives in Durban and continues to write and record the history of the struggle. Her latest publication is Footsteps in Grey Street.

Source: sahistory.org.za

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.