Nellie Jibiliza was born in 1926 to parents who were African National Congress (ANC) activists in Cape Town. Thus, she grew up in a politically active household and began attending Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) gatherings in 1942, later joined the organisation. This background inspired her deep involvement in politics.
Jibiliza became particularly active in the 1950s as a member of African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL), and was subsequently elected as regional secretary. She also became deeply involved in the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) where she was also elected as regional secretary. Jibiliza attended the 1955 Congress of the People in Kliptown, south-west of Johannesburg.
She was the Western Cape delegate to the women’s march on the Union Buildings on 9 August, 1956 in a campaign against the apartheid government policy which extended the carrying of passes to women. Jibiliza became a founding member of the Cape Association for the Abolition of Passes for African Women (CATAPAW) in 1957. Jibiliza also took part in the Potato Boycott in 1959.
Following the passing of the Group Areas Act in 1950 her family fell victim to the Act as they were forcibly removed from Klipfontein Road, Mowbray to Gugulethu in 1960. She became an active branch member of the ANC in Athlone, an area that was predominantly Coloured. When Jiliza’s husband died in 1965, the apartheid government endorsed her out of the city of Cape Town. Eulalie Scott with whom she worked in CATAPAW intervened and Jibiliza was allowed to stay.
Despite this harassment by the apartheid government Jibiliza continued her activism and together with other African women acted as interpreters and advisors of Black Sash on the pass law issues. In 1983 she became a member of the UWCO and served as its chairperson alongside Mampe Ramotsamani who was the organisation’s secretary.
Nellie was also a wife and mother of two sons. One of the sons joined the ANC’s military wing uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and became part of the armed struggle.
Jibiliza passed away in Gugulethu in June 1993.
• Scanlon, H, Representation and Reality, Portraits of Women’s Lives in the Western Cape 1948-1976, (Human Sciences Research Council), p.258-259