Remembering late ANC leader Wilton Mkwayi on his 96th birthday

Remembering late ANC leader Wilton Mkwayi on his 96th birthday

Wilton Mkwayi was an ANC leader born on this day in 1923. He was part of the 1956 Treason Trial and also became acting leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe. gathered a few interesting facts about the late activist on what would have been his 96th birthday.

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1. Childhood

Wilton Z. Mkwayi was born in Middledrift in the Transkei. He was the eldest child in a family of 13. He had a rural childhood herding sheep and goats, and passing through circumcision school. Mkwayi became a member of the ANC at age 17.

2. Political career

He was a leader of the 1952 Defiance Campaign in the Eastern Cape. He was arrested after the Defiance Campaign for a metal workers' strike and escaped with a fine. Mkwayi was one of the 156 co-accused in the 1956 Treason Trial for supporting the Freedom Charter calling for a non-racial democracy and a Socialist-based economy.

He went into hiding during the trial and the 1960 State of Emergency while the other defendants were detained, later arrested and tried during the Rivonia Trial. He returned to South Africa in 1962 to work underground and lead sabotage operations such as Operation Mayibuye.

After Nelson Mandela, Raymond Mhlaba and other co-defendants were arrested in July 1963, Mkwayi briefly took command of Umkonto weSizwe. He was arrested at his girlfriend’s house in Orlando West in 1964, after he was informed upon by a mole within the ANC. He was detained in solitary confinement and tortured while awaiting trial.

Mkwayi was sentenced in December 1964 in the Little Rivonia Trial and sent to Robben Island, where he met Nelson Mandela and Govan Mbeki.

Mkwayi was released from Robben Island on 10 October, 1989.

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3. Personal life

In 1985, while in prison, he married his childhood sweetheart Ntombifuthi Irene Khumalo and they had two children. She died of cancer in 1987. He married a second time and his wife Patricia Lang-Mkwayi is still alive.

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