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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Mhlaba, Raymond

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Mhlaba was born in February 1920 in the Fort Beaufort district of the Eastern Cape. He completed ten years of schooling, the last two at Healdtown, before being forced to leave school for financial reasons.

He became politically active from the time he was fired from his job during a laundry workers' strike. He joined the SACP in 1943 and the ANC the following year, remaining active in both organisations. He served as branch secretary of the Port Elizabeth Communist Party until it was banned, as well as Port Elizabeth ANC branch chairman from 1947-53. He was also active in the Council for Non-European Trade Unions.

Mhlaba chaired the Eastern Cape bus boycott action committee in 1949. He was chosen as the Port Elizabeth Defiance Campaign's volunteer-in-chief in 1952, and was the first ANC leader arrested in the campaign. Mhlaba was arrested and detained on several occasions in the 1950s and early 1960s, and was charged with treason in the 1956 treason trial. Mhlaba was elected to the ANC Cape Executive Committee in 1954, and continued his political activities.

Mhlaba went underground after the ANC was banned, and joined one of the first groups that left South Africa to undergo military training in 1961, prior to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. He returned to South Africa in 1962 after completing his training to serve as MK's Commander in Chief. Mhlaba was arrested in Rivonia in July 1963 and charged with 193 acts of sabotage. On 12 June 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He served his sentence on Robben Island until his transfer to Pollsmoor Prison in1982.

Mhlaba, along with the other Rivonia trialists, was released on 15 October 1989 and he returned to Port Elizabeth. He became a member of the ANC's interim leadership group after the unbanning of the ANC. He was also named as chairman of the interim leadership group of the SACP at their legal re-launch as a political party. In 1991 Mhlaba was elected to the ANC's National Executive Committee, and was re-elected in 1994. Mhlaba became premier of the Eastern Cape following the 1994 elections. Mhlaba was elected unopposed as national chairman of the SACP at their ninth national congress in 1995. He also received the ANC medal Isithwalandwe and served in 1997 as South African High Commissioner to Uganda.

Sources: Shelagh Gastrow, 1995. Who's who in South African Politics, Number 5. Johannesburg: Ravan Press.


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