Barberton Town South Africa

Barberton Museum Exhibits - Liberation Struggle


The beginning of the struggle against oppression in Mjindini can be traced to the decade after the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), today known as the African National Congress (ANC), was established in 1912. The Royal families and Chiefs from the Swazi nation joined SANNC. The struggle intensified when the Union Government of South Africa introduced the Land Act of 1913, and the traditional leaders lost their land and their wealth. The people, especially those who owned herds of livestock, were also affected. In 1924, the residents of the Mjindini Royal Kraal at Mtfongwaneni (Moodies Farm) were evicted together with 37 other homesteads. Prince Mhola was critical of the Native Administration Act of 1927 which aimed at redistributing labour within the farming sector while the pass laws blocked lines of escape to the town.
After Prince Mhola was first evicted, he sought the assistance of King Sobhuza II and his councils to discuss his problems with Lord Athlone (the High Commissioner) on his behalf. Athlone “felt that South Africa should make a proper provision for its population within its borders and may have feared that the eviction of the prominent Swazi would lead to a flood of immigrants into Swaziland where congestion in Swazi Nation areas was already a problem. The response of Mr Herbst (the Secretary of Native Affairs) clearly justified such fears. He indicated his preferences that Mhola should remove himself to Swaziland as he had clearly shown in the past that “he considers he is resident in the Transvaal as a representative of the Paramount Chief of the Swazis rather than as a subject of the Government. His influence with the Swazis in the Barberton district has been such to hamper smooth and efficient administration and his continued residence in the area is considered undesirable.
In 1930 Mhola’s Councillors protested against the creation of a labour tenant system. They were forced to accept the establishment of a reserve, to which the most hard-pressed could move, including the Prince and larger cattle owners, who could not keep their herds on the farms where they worked. The Prince’s Councillors demanded to be part of the economy of the town so that they could engage in business. They also complained about the treatment which they received from town authorities as they were treated the same as the migrant labourers. Mhola’s Councillors protested in order to get the town authorities to recognise the Prince’s authority.
The ANC and the labour unions played a vital role in influencing the local people to take part in the Liberation Struggle. The political struggle in Mjindini originated with the resentment created by the segregation laws. Prince Mhola disapproved of the restrictions which were imposed on the local African community.
The Soweto uprising of 16 June 1976 brought a turning point in the Liberation Struggle for the whole of South Africa. The youth organisations, trade unions and student organisations played an important role in the struggle from the mid 1970s till the 1990s. These groups became increasingly important in the struggle during the later 1980s as they became seasoned activists. This also applied to the activists of Mjindini. The Mjindini Location is situated very close to the Swaziland border and the activists used it as a gateway to exile.


Dr. Enos Nganani Mabuza

Dr. Enos Mabuza was born on 6 June 1939, at Viviya near Sheba Gold Mine. He died of cancer on 13 December 1997. Dr. Mabuza completed Grades 1 to 6 at Sheba Gold Mine School, and then attended Ngwane Community School where he attained Grade 8. Thereafter he attended the Mjindini Secondary School where he completed his junior certificate in 1957. He continued to further his studies. Dr. Mabuza was involved in the following spheres during the struggle: education, politics, conservation and business. Dr. Mabuza campaigned for a quality education for people from the homelands. He advocated peace in politics and set an example in business.

Dr. Mabuza led the 19- man delegation to Lusaka, Zambia on 23 February 1986 to have talks with the African National Congress (ANC). At this time he was serving as the Chief Minister of the Bantustan of Kangwane. In his statement, which he delivered at the press conference at the Carlton Hotel, Johannesburg, before he left South Africa Dr. Mabuza said “the South African Government must address the fundamental questions of black political rights”. He was of the opinion that the Bantustans, the Tricameral Parliament and other ad-hoc political structures would not meet the lawful and undeniable rights of blacks so that they could share political power in their country of birth.

When he returned from Lusaka, he was welcomed as a hero by some of his Inyandza National Movement supporters at the airport in Nelspruit. He was the first person from a homeland government in South Africa to lead his movement to meet the banned African National Congress in Zambia. On his arrival at the airport, he told his supporters that the objective of his visit was to discuss the situation in South Africa and the future of the country. He proceeded to state that he "believed that it is important that the South African Government speak to the ANC as they could not simply be wished away.”


Elder Mhlupheki Mnisi-Mkhonza

Elder Mhlupheki Mnisi- Mkhonza was born in Komatipoort in the 1920’s and died on 18 July 2011. She was an activist for labour issues and the social welfare of young women from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. She participated in the women’s protests of the 1950’s and 1960’s in Johannesburg and Pretoria. She was known as “Ntfombintfo” (Virgin girl) in the community.

Elder took part in the anti-pass campaign and marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to present a petition against the pass laws to Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom. She took part in the women’s struggle against unjust Apartheid laws in 1956 in Johannesburg. Locally she was also involved in the door to door campaign, organising the protest march from Mjindini location to the town of Barberton, demanding “a pound a day”. The slogan for the protest march was “Akuyiwa! Sifuna Pondo Ngelinga! “, which means “don’t go to work! We demand a pound a day!”


Moses “Mois” Mokgatle

Moses Mokgatle attended Ekucathuzeni Primary School and Ngwane Higher Primary School. He was nicknamed by the other comrades as “Mshishi”. He was born in about 1968 or 1969 and died on 17 November 1997 and was buried on the 22 November 1997 in Mjindini cemetery.

Moses commenced with his political activism as a teenager. For a long time his parents were unaware that Moses was part of the group involved in the political struggle in Mjindini. Moses was part of a group that was detained by the police. According to his mother, he was caught by the police near the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Spearville, Mjindini. On his release he told his mother that they were taken to Shelangubo dam. They were put in plastic bags and pushed into the dam, which contained crocodiles. They were beaten and suffocated by the Police. Moses was detained with Gerald Sono, Percy Makola and Vusumuzi Magagula.


Makhutfuta Mhlanga

Makhutfuta Mhlanga, also known as “Piet”, was born ca. 1932 in Ndzingeni, Swaziland. He later relocated to Barberton and became a South African citizen. He died in December 1975. His involvement in the political struggle almost caused him to go into exile. He was monitored by the police. However, his employer, Mr Goodhead, came to his rescue by negotiating with the Security Police, after which he was released on condition that he must behave himself and stay away from involvement in politics. Makhutfuta was detained by the police on several occasions because of his involvement in the liberation struggle. Makhutfuta and his friends met every evening to listen to the political news on the radio. He experienced hardship during the liberation struggle and he and his children were assaulted by security forces.

His comrades in the political struggle were Mr R. Makhanya, Mr B. Sedibe and Mr Themba.


Abednego Fana Malindzisa

Abednego Malindzisa was born on 24 February 1942 in the native location, Madala Skom, Barberton. He attended school in Johannesburg. In 1963 he went into exile to Francistown, Botswana, where there was a camp for the South African Liberation Movement. From Botswana he went to Zimbabwe by courier (parcel) transport, where he obtained a passport. Thereafter he was able to pass through road blocks and border posts without being questioned by security forces. He travelled from Zimbabwe to Zambia and from there to Tanzania.

Malindzisa received his first military training in Cairo, Egypt, before he went to attend full military training in Algeria, firstly for a period of three years at an academy and then for six months at a command school. He was a member of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) which was the military wing of the Pan African Congress (PAC).


Christopher Lancaster Gololo

Christopher, known as “Chris” Gololo was born on 3 October 1958 in Mjindini. He was educated in Swaziland at Bhunya Primary School and completed secondary school in Havana, Cuba while in exile. He obtained several qualifications while in exile. His pseudonym while in exile was “Doctor Mkhwanazi”.

Chris crossed the border from Swaziland to Matola, Mozambique, with the assistance of the ANC group at Matola House. He stayed for three months in Matola after which he flew from Mozambique to Tanzania, and was then taken to Morogoro where the ANC camp was situated. He was sent to Havana, Cuba, to further his education. In Havana he received nine months of military training.


Percy Mduping Makola

Percy Makola was born ca. 1968 in Mjindini location. He was the second son of Sesana Priscilla Mabuza-Makola and James Letsutsa Makola. He started his primary education at Ngwane Primary School and his secondary education at Mjindini Secondary School.

As a teenager Percy became involved in political activism. He was detained by the police on several occasions due to his involvement in the political struggle. He was detained with, among others, Comfort Makhanya, Gerald Sono, Tseko Taabe and Inert Sibiya. Makola died in 1998 leaving behind three children.


Paulos Zakhi “M’Africa ka Nodumehlezi” Mkhonza

Paulos Zakhi Mkhonza, was born on 1 September 1948 at Mahlabatsini (Friesland farm), Badplaas, and died on 28 April 1997 in Barberton. His pseudonym was “M’Afrika ka Nodumehlezi”.

While at the University of Zululand ca. 1974, he participated in the student political struggle. His leadership abilities enabled him to be elected as president of the student representative council at the university. He was given the nickname “Mental Panel Beater” due to his heroics.

In 1976 Paulos went to Zambia because of the pressure from the South African Security Forces and joined the African National Congress (ANC) camp where he received military training from 1976-1983. In 1984 he was sent, by the African National Congress, to Tanzania where he became a lecturer at the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) until 1986. While in exile from South Africa, he used the name “M’Afrika ka Nodumehlezi” and claimed to be born in Thaba Nchu in South Africa.

Paulos served in the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as a co-ordinator under the ANC umbrella and as a Commissar Commander for Umkhonto weSizwe. In 1991, he was part of the ANC delegation that took part in the CODESA 1 negotiations.

Paulos has been honoured by the local community with the naming of a local health clinic, M’Afrika Clinic, after him.


James Vusumuzi “Shalazela Mjumbo” Nkambule

James Nkambule was born on 1 January 1973 at Low’s Creek. He died on 7 October 2010 and was buried at Mjindini cemetery.

James started school in Johannesburg and moved to Mjindini when he started grade 5. He attended school at Ngwane Primary School and Mjindini Secondary School.

James got involved with politics at the age of eleven in Johannesburg. In Mpumalanga Province he became the organiser and General Secretary of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL).

James was very influential at the ANCYL in Mpumalanga while holding the position of Provincial Secretary of the organisation. The ANCYL in Mpumalanga was known for its radical debate under his leadership. He died while he was a leader of the Congress of the People’s Party (COPE) in Mpumalanga. James is remembered by the Mjindini community for his active, vocal and radical roles in politics.


Ellen Cynthia Lindiwe Mokoena

Ellen Cynthia Lindiwe Mokoena, also known as Lindiwe Tsuma was born on 7 July 1969 in Mjindini Location. She was educated at Ekucathuzeni Primary School, Ngwane Primary School, Emjindini Secondary School, and Sitfokotile Secondary School at Matsulu.

Ellen was initiated in politics in 1985 during her school vacations in Johannesburg. Afterwards she became involved in the political activities in Mjindini, such as the removal of the black Apartheid Government local authority councillors in the location.

She was the only woman who was detained together with other comrades during the State of Emergency in 1986. She was caught and locked up in custody from 20 June till 30 September 1986. She was detained in solitary confinement. She survived and still lives with some pellets that were lodged in her body during skirmishes with security forces.


Vusumuzi Sidney "Galibhuku” Magagula

Vusumuzi Magagula was born on 2 September 1969 at Mjindini. He was educated at Ekucathuzeni Lower Primary School, Ngwane Higher Primary School and Khumbula Secondary School. He died in May 2005.

He was part of the group of people who were arrested by the police at Queens River. He was sent to the Pretoria High Court for a hearing on the rent boycott. Vusumuzi served six years in Prison after being found guilty of burning a car that transported gas bottles in Mjindini Location. The incident was politically motivated.

His mother believed that the cause of his death was the bullets which were never remove from his body after being shot by police during the liberation struggle.


Sipho Gerald “Tarzan” Sono

Sipho Gerald “Bhibhidla” Sono was born on 13 October 1962 in Low’s Creek. He was educated at Sinqobile Primary School, Esihlangu Primary School, Fairview Mine Primary School, Mjindini Secondary School and at the University of South Africa (UNISA).

He was recruited in secondary school in 1981 by Piet Mlala Nkuna to join and resuscitate the then dormant Emjindini Youth Organization (EYO). He was elected as chairperson, a position he held until the unbanning of the ANC.

On the 11th of June 1986, he was detained by the Apartheid regime as part of a pre-emptive strike to prevent the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the 16 June 1976 student uprisings. In detention his fellow detainees gave him the nickname “Tarzan”. His house in New Village was burned down. His fiancé Phumzile and his two year old son Manzi barely escaped as they had just left before the house was torched. Upon release from detention Gerald had nowhere to go and had to sleep in drain pipes and bushes. After the unbanning of the ANC he chaired the first branch, headed the local elections team and went on to represent the ANC as the first Mayor of a democratic local government in Barberton after the elections in 1994.


Refiloe Florence Phelile “Jackie” Mdluli-Sedibe

Refiloe Florence Phelile Mdluli-Sedibe was born on 14 November 1944 in White River, Mpumalanga. She came to live in Mjindini after her parents passed away when she was about six years of age. In Mjindini she lived with her maternal uncle, Ben Sedibe, who had a huge political influence in her life. Ben introduced Refiloe to politics and she started by distributing secret ANC fliers and by serving as a messenger. Refiloe joined uMkhonto we Sizwe in 1964 at the age of seventeen. She was amongst the first group of women who joined uMkhonto we Sizwe outside the country. Refiloe received military and technical training while she was in exile in different countries.

In 1972 she held two positions within the African National Congress. She worked as the secretary and the chairperson of various ANC branches. She also helped the Zambian immigration officials at Lusaka Airport with processing the documents of newly recruited comrades. Refiloe was one of the uMkhonto we Sizwe members who were integrated into the South African National Defence Force in 1994. She was tasked to look after the interest of women in the force.


Moffat “Busface” Zulu

Moffat “Busface” Zulu was born on 24 October 1961. He was part of the Emjindini Youth Organisation (EYO) in the 1980’s. He wrote stage plays which were performed around the Lowveld of the old Eastern Transvaal (Mpumalanga).

As a unionist he played a vital role in introducing the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to Barberton. He was also part of the organisers of the month long consumer boycott in September 1989 and the two day stay- away and protest marches in February 1990. He was sent to Zambia in 1889 for union matters where he met with high profile union leaders of the South African Congress of Trade Unions.


Comfort Mhambi Makhanya

Comfort Makhanya who was born in 1960 in Mjindini, became acquainted with politics while in form 4 (grade 11) in Tembeka Secondary school. His politics during that period was not advanced and lacked explicit guidance or instructions.

However after he registered as a student at the University of Fort Hare, his political thinking became more pronounced. He was part of the 282 students expelled from the University of Fort Hare after the unrest against the Ciskei homeland government in 1982 at the university. He enrolled at the University of Zululand in 1983.

His involvement in local political struggles took the practice of challenging the Apartheid Community Councillors in community meetings around 1984. This he did together with fellow local youth leaders Thomas Mabuza, Edward Muzi Madalane, Timothy Nkosi and Tsatsi Nkosi, who were registered with the University of Zululand.

He also played a part in the formation of Emjindini Youth Organisation in 1982. He was part of the collective leadership of comrades who led the local communities in the fight against the Apartheid regime during the 1986 political upheavals. This resulted in him being harassed by the Apartheid Government Security Forces which ultimately culminated in his arrest during the declaration of the state of emergency in 1986.


Tseko Taabe

Tseko Taabe was involved in the liberation struggle from the age of 15. He was involved in community and youth structures and participated in the Emjindini Youth Organisation (EYO). He also participated in the civil struggles under the Emjindini Civic Organisation. He was detained in 1986 under the State of Emergency and was the youngest detainee in the Lowveld. 

Tseko participated in the formation of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) in the Lowveld. He took part in the formation of the Civic Movement in the Lowveld and townships in the Province. He ran underground activities of the then banned the ANC. He spent several spells in detention between 1986 -1990. He played a part in the formation of the Emjindini Youth Congress. 

He was among those who served in the first executive council of the ANC after it was unbanned and he was the youngest councillor in Barberton during the Pre-Interim phase of 1993 - 1998.


Robert Makhanya

Robert Makhanya died in November 1983. He played an important role in the social welfare, politics and labour movement in Mjindini.

Robert Makhanya led the Emjindini Residential Improvement Association until his death in 1983. His name is synonymous with the struggles of Mjindini Township against the Apartheid regime. He established relationships with human rights organizations, like Black Sash and the Institute of Race Relations, which he used as resources in intervening on behalf of local residents experiencing the social ills of the Apartheid Administration. He worked together with Ben Sedibe and other prominent local community leaders within the Emjindini Residential Improvement Association.


Rowena Lozizwe Makhanya.

Rowena received her High School education at Inkomazi High School where she completed matric in1981. She did a Secretarial Course in Johannesburg during 1981 and then joined the Ka-Ngwane government as a civil servant early in 1982. While working as a civil servant, she joined the ANC in May 1982. 

At this time the ANC was still a banned organization. She ultimately left South Africa in October 1982. Rowena joined the African National Congress recruits in exile Tanzania and her leader in exile was Paulos Zakhi ‘M’ Afrika ka Nodumehlezi’’ Mkhonza and she retuned back in South Africa in 1992 after 10 years of exile.

Other participants in the Liberation Struggle.
Ben “ Mkhulu” Sedibe, Andrew Jabulani Vilakazi, Joel Mathe, Cabbage L.Themba, George Nkosi, Bhaya Msithini, Inert Sibiya, George Nkosi, Edwin Morgan, Craig Padiyachee, Bheki Sithole, Henry Zance “Gubhugubhu” Tsabedze, Bongani Sibiya, Zakhi Shongwe, Boykie Makamo, Simon Jabulani "Mboko" Ndlovu, Allen Nkambule, Nkosinathi Nkosi, Malan Vilakazi, Jan Sikhonde, Lobayi Mahlalela, Desmond Zakhele Nyambi, December Zulu, Musa Linkwati.

Museum 36 Pilgrim Street Barberton 1300. Tel: +27 (0) 13 7124208 Fax: +27 (0) 13 7124281 Email: Curator.

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