Leaders’ profiles


WALTER SISULU

Sisulu was born in December 1912 in the Engcobo district in the Transkei

Political involvement:

  • He joined the ANC in 1940

  • He became the Treasurer of the ANC Youth League in 1944

  • He became the Secretary-General of the ANC in 1949

  • In 1952 he organised the National Defiance Campaign and in December the same year he was tried for organising the campaign under the Suppression of Communism Act, along with Mandela and 18 others.

  • In December 1952 he was re-elected the Secretary-General of the ANC and the next year he toured China, the Soviet Union, Israel, Rumania and Britain for five months as an ANC representative.

  • He was banned in 1954, and was forced to resign from the ANC, but he continued to work secretly.

  • He was arrested in 1956 with 156 people and charged with high treason but was acquitted in 1961.

  • In March 1963 he was found guilty of furthering the aims of the ANC and was sentenced to six years. He appealed and was released on bail and placed under 24-hour house arrest.

  • In the same year in July, he was arrested with others at Liliesleaf Farm, the ANC secret headquarters in Rivonia.

  • In 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

  • Sisulu is married to Albertina Sisulu, President of the UDF

  • They have four children.


OSCAR MPETHA


Mpetha was born on 5 August 1909 at Mount Fletcher in the Transkei.

Political involvement:

  • He joined the African Food and Canning Workers’ Union (now part of the Food and Allied Workers’ Union) in 1947.

  • He became the union’s Secretary- General in 1951.

  • He joined the ANC in 1948.

  • He became the ANC Cape chairman in 1958.

  • In 1960 he was found guilty of furthering the aims of the ANC and was sentenced to four years.

  • He spent three years in jail as an awaiting trial prisoner from 1980. In July 1983 he was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to five years in prison.

  • He appealed against the sentence and was released on bail of R1.00. In 1985, the Appeal Court turned down the appeal and he was sent to jail.

  • He was elected as of the first three presidents of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983.

  • He was elected as the president of the Release Mandela Campaign (RMC) in 1987.

  • He was married to Rose Nomabunga who died in 1986.

  • He has children, one of whom, Karl, died while Mpetha was in prison.


ELIAS MOTSOALEDI


Motsoaledi was born on 26 July 1924 in Sekhukhuniland in Lebowa

Political Involvement:

  • He joined the Leather Workers Union in the late 40s.

  • He served as an executive member of the Non-European Trade Unions in the late 1940s.

  • He joined the Communist Party of South Africa and the ANC during this period.

  • He was banned in 1952 shortly after the Defiance Campaign but still remained politically active.

  • He was one of the Trade Union leaders who helped form the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) in 1955.

  • When the state of emergency in 1960 was declared he was detained for four months.

  • Shortly after his release he went underground and served on the Umkhonto we Sizwe Johannesburg Regional Command.

  • In 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

  • Motsoaledi is married to Caroline Motsoaledi.

  • They have seven children, three of whom are in exile.


RAYMOND MHLABA


Mhlaba was born in 1920 in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape

Political Involvement:

  • He joined the trade union movement in the early 1940s, while employed as a laundry worker.

  • He was a member of the Council of Non-European Trade Unions.

  • He joined the Communist Party and the ANC in the mid 1940’s.

  • He served as the Port Elizabeth Communist Party branch secretary and ANC chairperson from 1946 to 1953.

  • In 1949 he led the Eastern Cape Bus Boycott Action Committee.

  • He was elected as the Port Elizabeth Defiance Campaign volunteer- in-chief in 1952.

  • He was detained several times during the 1950s and early 1960s.

  • He was one of the 156 Congress Movement leaders charged with treason from 1956 to 1961.

  • When the ANC was banned Mhlaba went underground and became one of the Umkhonto we Sizwe High Command.

  • He was arrested at Liliesleaf farm in Rivonia in 1963.

  • In 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

  • Mhlaba married Dedika Heliso in 1986.

  • They have three children.


ANDREW MLANGENI


Mlangeni was born on 3 May 1926 in Prospect Township, Johannesburg.

Political involvement

  • After completing his Std 8 in Johannesburg he worked as a clerk, bus driver and a golf caddie to earn money to further his education.

  • He later worked as a journalist with the now banned “New Age” newspaper.

  • He joined the ANC Youth League in 1951.

  • He was involved in the 1952 Defiance Campaign.

  • In 1958 he was elected as the secretary of the ANC Soweto region.

  • In 1960 he went underground and joined Umkhonto we Sizwe Johannesburg Regional High Command and was one of the founder members.

  • In 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

  • Mlangeni is married to June Mlangeni.

  • They have four children.


WILTON MKWAYI


Mkwayi was born in 1923 near Middlesdrift in the Cape.

Political involvement:

  • His father was an ANC member.

  • He left school in 1938 and worked as a stevedore, labourer, factory worker and clerk in Cape Town.

  • In 1947 he joined the South African Railways and Harbours Workers Union (SARHWU).

  • He played a leading role in the Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU) and later in SACTU organising workers in railways, textile, tin and iron and steel industries.

  • In 1952 he was elected the Eastern Cape Defiance Campaign volunteer-in- chief. – He was charged in the 1956 treason trial together with the other 156 Congress Leaders and acquitted in 1961.

  • He was SACTU national treasurer from the late 1950s to 1964 when he was arrested.

  • When the emergency was declared in 1960 he escaped arrest and left the country to represent SACTU at the World Federation of Trade Unions.

  • He received Military training while outside the country and returned home to become a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe High command.

  • He escaped arrest at Rivonia in 1963 and led a new High Command of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

  • In August 1964 he was arrested and tried together with Laloo Chiba, Mac Maharaj and Johan Mathews. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

  • He married Irene Mkwayi in 1987, after waiting 20 years for permission. Irene died last December.

  • They have two children.


AMHED KATHRADA


Kathrada was born on 21 August 1929 in Schweizer-Reneke in the Transvaal.

Political Involvement:

  • He started his political career at the age of 11 by distributing pamphlets.

  • He joined the Communist Party Youth League in 1941 at the age of 12.

  • He became the chairperson of the Indian Youth Congress in the 1940s.

  • He was elected the general-secretary of the Transvaal Indian Congress and was one of those who forged links between the Indian Congress and the ANC.

  • In 1951, he went to Germany and Poland to attend Youth and Student Congresses and worked for nine months in Hungary at the headquarters of the World Federation of Democratic Youth.

  • He came back to South Africa in 1952 and helped to organise the Defiance campaign that year.

  • During the 1950s and 1960s he was tried, jailed and detained many times.

  • In October 1962 he became the chairperson of the Free Mandela Committee.

  • In 1963 he went underground and joined Umkhonto we Sizwe High Command.

  • He was arrested in 1963 at Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia at the age of 34.

  • In 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.


JAFTA MASEMOLA


Masemola was born on 12 December 1928 in Bon Accord in Pretoria

Political involvement:

  1. He joined the ANC Youth League and later the PAC when it was formed in 1959.

  2. At the time of his arrest in 1961, he was a teacher,

  3. On July 12 1963 he was sentenced to life imprisonment with five other members of PAC for attempting to overthrow the government.

  4. Masemola is married and has a son.

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