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Vuyisile Mini

Vuyisile Mini

Birth date:

April 8, 1920

Death date:

November 6, 1964

Age at Death:



Mr. Mini was born in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth. His father was a Port Elizabeth dockworker active in labour and community struggles, which inspired Mini, at 17, to take part in bus fare and rent increase protests. He was also active in campaigns against forced removals of Black people from Korsten (where he lived) to Kwazakhele. After completing elementary school, he worked as a labourer and trade union organiser. He was known as the 'organiser of the unorganised', because of his courage and tireless efforts to organise workers across the Eastern Cape during the increasingly repressive 1950s. He became the Metal Workers' Union Secretary. Together with another activist, Stephen Tobia, they founded the African Painting and Building Union. He was also a founder member of the Port Elizabeth Stevedoring and Dockworkers' Union, which embarked in the 1950s, on one of the longest protests for a wage increase, and fought against the use of convicts as cheap scab labour. He became SACTU secretary for the Eastern Cape in 1960. His militant political activities began in 1951 when he joined the African National Congress (ANC). In 1952 he was jailed with Govan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba for three months in Rooi Hel or North End Prison, Port Elizabeth for participation in the ‘Campaign of Defiance against Unjust Laws' (Defiance Campaign). He intentionally entered railway property reserved for Whites only, and because of his imprisonment, lost his job as a packer in a battery factory. On his release he married his trade union work with political activism, and rose rapidly in the ranks of the ANC. He was elected secretary of the ANC Cape region. In 1956, Mr. Mini was one of 156 defendants in the famous Treason Trial of 1956. The state's case collapsed for lack of evidence and Mr. Mini was discharged on 20 April 1959. He was a gifted actor, dancer, poet and singer too.

Mr. Mini was arrested on 10 May 1963 with two other prominent ANC members, Wilson Khayinga and Zinakile Mkaba. They were charged with 17 counts of sabotage and other political crimes and were sentenced to death. The trio were offered their lives in exchange for giving information about sabotage activity in their area. Mr. Mini refused and at the time of his death, he was married, and had six children.

Was justice served?

No. Mr. Mini, Wilson Khayinga and Zinakile Mkaba were hanged in the Pretoria Central Prison in November, 1964. Their death sentence provoked an international outcry, and clemency appeals by President Nasser of the United Arab Republic, on behalf of the Non-aligned States, and by Secretary-General U Thant of the United Nations (UN) were unsuccessful. So too were approaches by the UN Special Committee on Apartheid and the UN Security Council.

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