Lydia (nee Ngwenya) Kompe was born in 1935 in Matlala, near Pietersburg in the Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo Province). Her father was a small-scale farmer who kept livestock. However, in 1950 when the government introduced the betterment scheme everything the family had was taken away. As a result Kompe had to drop out of school and leave her family and move to Johannesburg to work.

Kompe’s first job in Johannesburg was as a domestic worker in Hyde Park. She later worked in many different factory jobs and through this became involved in the trade union movement. Kompe joined the Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAAWU) in 1974. In 1977 she was fired from her job as a result of her involvement in union strike action. After she was dismissed Kompe became a full time union employee. She was involved in establishing the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in 1985.

In 1986, Kompe moved back to the Northern Transvaal to work with rural women and joined the Transvaal Rural Action Committee (TRAC) as a fieldworker. Her work in TRAC involved dealing with victims of forced removals. As part of her rural work she was a leading force in creating the Rural Women’s Movement (RWM). The RWM was officially launched in 1990 and was successful in mobilising women on issues that affected him.

In 1994 Kompe was one of the women on the African National Congress (ANC)’s candidates for members of parliament. When the ANC was voted into government Kompe became a Member of Parliament. She sat on the Agriculture and Land Affairs Portfolio Committee and contributed immensely on the Restitution Bill. Kompe was also a member of the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of the Quality of Life and Status of Women (JCIQLSW) and pushed hard for the Maintenance Bill and to ensure that customary marriages are legally recognised.

Kompe campaigned hard to create jobs for the residents of her constituency. For example at the Mafato Bakery and Catering Project, Kompe lobbied the provincial minister of public works to provide the employees with a multi-purpose hall. Kompe currently sits on the Water and forestry Portfolio Committee and on the Status of Women and Gender Committee. 

• Speak, 1994. “Fighting for rural rights” in Speak, April 1994: 5-7 [online]. Available at[Accessed 28 November 2012]
• Meer, S. n.d. “Mam Lydia Kompe-Ngwenya” in Voices of the World [online]. Available at[Accessed 28 November 2012]
• GenderLinks, n.d. “Lydia Kompe Ngwenya” in GenderLinks [online]. Available at[Accessed 28 November 2012]

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