PAC stalwart and former KZN MPL dies

2013-01-02 00:00

PAC stalwart and former KZN MPL Joe Mkhwanazi died from renal failure in Johannesburg on Monday while visiting his children for the festive season. He was 84.

Mkhwanazi, popularly known as “Khwani”, was born on March 8, 1928, at Mandlanzini in the Empangeni district.

He cut his political teeth in the ANC Youth League and became a founding member of the Pan Africanist Congress.

After completing his teaching diploma at Adams College, he taught between 1949 until 1963, including as headmaster of Hlophekhulu Senior School in KZN.

After the Sharpeville massacre and the banning of the PAC and ANC, Mkhwanazi went into exile in 1963.

His job as an executive of Coca Cola in Swaziland offered the perfect cover for his political activities. He was the link between the PAC underground and exiled leadership.

However, Mkhwanazi’s cover was blown in the lengthy Bethal trial, in which several PAC leaders were charged, prosecuted and convicted of the instigation, organisation and the execution of the 1976 Soweto youth uprising.

Under intense pressure from South Africa, including threats of cross-border raids, PAC leaders in Swaziland, including Mkhwanazi, were rounded up, arrested and detained.

They were declared persona non grata and their political asylum and refugee status revoked.

After six months in solitary confinement, Mkhwanazi was released in 1978 and immediately deported to the United Kingdom, where he was granted asylum.

In 1982, the PAC redeployed Mkhwanazi to Dar es Salaam, where he served under then acting PAC president Potlako Leballo as administrative secretary.

He was also part of the PAC’s military commission, the body with oversight over the Azanian People’s Liberation Army and its high command.

On his return to the country after the unbanning of the PAC and ANC, he continued in his role as administrative secretary and later served as the party’s national chairperson.

Mkhwanazi was part of the PAC’s team at the Codesa multi-party negotiations, which paved the way for South Africa’s first democratic elections.

He became the PAC’s sole MPL in the KZN legislature after the 1994 democratic election and later become its councillor in eThekwini.

His son, Xolani, told The Witness yesterday his father was a wonderful man.

“He was a kind, warm-hearted father, grounded in principle and respected everyone irrespective of age, gender, status in life and views.

“When we went to ubaba with our problems, we would come back with solutions. He was a good listener,” he said.

PAC president Letlapa Mphahlele described Mkhwanazi as “a leader, a father figure, a comrade and friend”.

Mphahlele, who first met Mkhwanazi in 1981 in Tanzania, said he had the skill to defuse tensions in the military camps with a sense of humour.

“He was a unifier. He was a typical leader who did not take sides, but brought us together. Not a single faction in the PAC can lay claim to him as theirs.”

PAC national chairperson Waters Toboti said: “He was a very humble man, very active, committed and loyal to the PAC.”

Toboti, who met Mkhwanazi in 1983 and served with him in the party’s national executive committee, described him as someone with humility.

“You could say anything to him. He would not respond in a negative way to a situation that would cause friction in the PAC.”

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