Lillian Masediba Ngoyi
Formely Francois Road

Lilian Masediba Ngoyi was born in Pretoria in 1911 to a family of six children. She attended primary school at Kilnerton and later enrolled for a nurse’s course, but eventually took a job as a machinist in a clothing factory, where she worked from 1945 to 1956. During this time she joined the Solly Sachs led Garment Workers Union, and later became one of its leading figures. Impressed by the spirit of the ANC volunteers, Ngoyi joined the party during the1950 Defiance Campaign and was arrested for trying to use post office facilities reserved for whites.

Her energy, and talent as a public speaker won her rapid recognition, and within a year of joining the ANC, she was elected president of its Women’s League. In 1955, Ngoyi travelled to Europe as a delegate to the conference called by the Women’s International Democratic Federation and was invited by the socialist delegates to tour Russia, China and other Eastern bloc countries.

She served on the executive of the Transvaal ANC from 1955, and in December 1956 became the first woman to be elected to the party’s National Executive Committee. On 9 August she led the women’s anti-pass march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria, one of the largest demonstrations in South African history.

In December 1956 Ngoyi was arrested for high treason along with 156 others. She stood trial until 1961 in the four-year-long trial. While the trial was still on and the accused out on bail, Ngoyi was imprisoned for five months under the 1960 state of emergency. She spent much of this time in solitary confinement. She was issued banning orders in October 1962. These confined her to Orlando township and forbade her from attending any gatherings. In the mid 1960s she was jailed under the 90-day Detention Act and spent 71 days in solitary confinement. Her banning orders lapsed in 1972, but were renewed for a five-year period in 1975. Ngoyi, suffered heart trouble and died on 13 March 1980 at the age of 68.

Bram Fischer
Formerly Ordinance Road

ABRAM, or Bram, Fischer was born into a prominent Afrikaans family on 23 April 1908, in the Orange Free State. His father was a judge president of the Orange Free State Supreme Court. His grandfather was a prime minister of the Orange River Colony. After studying law, Fischer spent 1931 to 1934 at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He later joined the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), and openly participated in its activities. This did not harm his career as a corporate lawyer and he was widely admired for his brilliance. During the 1940s Fischer served on the Johannesburg District Committee and the Central Committee of the CPSA.

In 1943 he helped AB Xuma revive the ANC. He was also a member of the Congress Of Democrats and was part of the defence team for the treason trialists of 1956 to 1961. He also defended the accused in the Rivonia treason trial, in 1964. In September of that year, Fischer was arrested and charged with being a member of Communist Party, an illegal organisation. He was granted bail and in January 1965 went underground, but was captured in November. In 1966 he was found guilty of violating the Suppression of Communism Act and conspiring to commit sabotage, and was jailed. In 1974 Fischer was ill with cancer and liberal newspapers and political leaders mounted a campaign for his release. They were successful and he was moved to his brother’s home weeks before his death.