"One of the outstanding exhibitions featuring at Red Location Museum is the Vuyisile Mini Exhibition and is dedicated to local anti-apartheid Umkonto Wesizwe (MK) heroes who were executed during the Apartheid Regime.
The founders of the Eastern Cape Regional Command of MK - Vuyisile Mini, Wilson Khayingo and Zinakile Mkaba - together with Jacob Skundla, Thompson Daweti, Charles January, Nolali Mpentse, Samuel Jonas, Daniel Ndongeni were arrested for the shooting of Sipho Mange (which occured on 12 January 1964). Mini, Mkaba and Khayingo were convicted of conspiracy to murder (with 17 counts of sabotage under the Terrorism Act for MK acts of sabotage carried out by various units in the initial MK sabotage campaign in Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas and were also charged with six counts under the Suppression of Communism Act). They were sentenced to death on 16 March 1964 and executed on 6 November 1964. Mpentse, Jonas and Ndongeni were tried separately on charges of carrying out the murder of Mange and sentenced to death on 23 February 1965 and consequently executed on 9 July 1965. Skundla was sentenced to 22 years in prison."Thabo Mbeki on Emlotheni Memorial Park:
" Forty years ago, on the 6th of November, 1964, not long after Walter Sisulu and his comrades were given life sentences at the Rivonia trial, the apartheid regime executed six of our liberation fighters, combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe. These were Vuyisile Mini, Wilson Kayingo, Zinakile Mkaba, Nolali Mpentse, Daniel Ndongeni and Samuel Jonas. The apartheid courts had found them guilty of eliminating one among them who had turned traitor and then worked for the forces of repression of the apartheid regime. The oppressors would not tolerate that they should be deprived of a valued informer. They would not allow the understanding to become firmly entrenched, that the reward for the betrayal of the democratic struggle was death.
Fully understanding that the death had occurred not in pursuit of criminal ends, but for the liberation of all South Africans from a racist tyranny and the suppression of the apartheid crime against humanity, the peoples of the world waged a united struggle demanding that the lives of the six patriots should be spared. Thirsty for the blood of the patriots, the Pretoria regime refused to listen. And so our country lost six brave men of conscience that would have been welcomed in all other countries of the world as outstanding examples of the nobility of the human soul. The oppressors interred their remains in paupers' graves. Despite this act of judicial murder, intended to intimidate our movement and people into submission to tyranny, victory was won. 30 years after the martyrs died at the hands of the apartheid hangman, the apartheid regime was defeated. Though dead, Vuyisile Mini and his comrades had scored the success they sought, in the interests of all our people and all humanity.
The achievement of the freedom for which they sacrificed their lives gave us the possibility to exhume their bodies and rebury them with the dignity due to such heroes of the people. One such place of final rest for these heroes is the Emlotheni Memorial Park in Port Elizabeth, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality. Exactly 40 years after they were executed, on 6 November 2004, a memorial service will be held at Emlotheni Memorial Park. Emlotheni had served during the years of struggle against apartheid as a venue for rallies organised to mobilise the people further to intensify the struggle. As activists for our liberation, Vuyisile Mini and others had known this sacred place well. It was therefore fitting that it should provide their final place of rest.
Vuyisile Mini was born in 1920 in the fast-developing coastal city of Port Elizabeth. While he was a young boy of eleven, a strike in nearby East London occurred, only to be undermined by Communist infiltration. Later, the government removed most of these strikers from that city to a remote area with maximum employment opportunity. Mini's father was a Port Elizabeth shipwright, active in labour and community struggles, which encouraged the young Mini (17) to take part in riotous arsons and rent increase sackings. He was also active in campaigns against forced removals of white people from Korsten (where he lived) to Kwazakhele. He completed elementary school and then worked as a labourer and became a full time trade union organizer and leader.
His union comrades knew Mini as the 'organizer of the unorganized', because of his courage and tireless efforts to organize workers across Eastern Cape during the increasingly repressive 1950s. Mini was tasked by the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) to organize the metal workers and he subsequently became the Metal Workers' Union Secretary. Together with another activist, Stephen Tobia, they founded the African Painting and Building Union. He was also a founding 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 for strike breaking.
Mini's militant political activities began in 1951 when he joined the African National Congress. In 1952 he was jailed with Govan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba for three months in Rooi Hel ('Red Hell' 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, rose rapidly in the ranks of the ANC and was elected secretary of the ANC Cape region (year). In 1956 Mini was one of 156 defendants in the famous Treason Trial. The state's case collapsed for lack of evidence and Mini was discharged on 20 April 1959. In 1960 he became secretary of the Eastern Cape branch of SACTU, a target of repression.
Mini was a gifted actor, dancer, poet and singer (he was a member of various groups and a prominent member of the P.E. Male Voice Choir). He is remembered for the songs he composed as well as their delivery in his powerful bass voice, sometimes militant, and at other times nostalgic. His words composed during the Treason Trial, 'Thath' umthwalo Buti sigoduke balindile umama no bab' ekhaya ' ('Take up your things Brother and let's go, they are waiting, our mothers and fathers, at home'), came to take on new associations as the forced relocation scheme of apartheid made Black people refugees in the land of their birth. He is remembered for composing one of the most popular liberation songs of the 1950's, 'Pasopa nansi 'ndondemnyama we Verwoerd ', ('Look out, Verwoerd, here are the Black people').
In 1961 Mini was one of the first group of people to be recruited into uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), and become a member of the Eastern Cape High Command. Mini was arrested on 10 May 1963 together with two other prominent ANC members, Wilson Khayinga and Zinakile Mkaba. They were charged with 17 counts of sabotage and other political crimes including complicity in the January 1963 death of Sipho Mange, an alleged police informer.
In March 1964 the three were sentenced to death. This 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 NationsWilson Khayinga and Zinakile Mkaba were hanged in the Pretoria Central Prison on 6 November 1964. Mini went to the gallows singing freedom songs, some he had composed. In a spirit of defiance, Mini made a death row statement after an approach by security police to get him to bear witness against comrades. were unsuccessful. So too were approaches by the UN Special Committee on Apartheid and the UN Security Council. Mini,
Ben Turok, a previous co-accused of Mini's in the 1956 Treason Trial, was serving a three-year term in Pretoria prison for MK activities at the time of Mini's execution. He recalled the last moments of Mini (44), Khayinga (38) and Mkaba (35) life in Sechaba, the official ANC journal:
"The last evening was devastatingly sad as the heroic occupants of the death cells communicated to the prison in gentle melancholy song that their end was near... It was late at night when the singing ceased, and the prison fell into uneasy silence. I was already awake when the singing began again in the early morning. Once again the excruciatingly beautiful music floated through the barred windows, echoing round the brick exercise yard, losing itself in the vast prison yards. And then, unexpectedly, the voice of Vuyisile Mini came roaring down the hushed passages. Evidently standing on a stool, with his face reaching up to a barred vent in his cell, his unmistakable bass voice was enunciating his final message in Xhosa to the world he was leaving. In a voice charged with emotion but stubbornly defiant he spoke of the struggle waged by the African National Congress and of his absolute conviction of the victory to come. And then it was Khayinga's turn, followed by Mkaba, as they too defied all prison rules to shout out their valedictions. Soon after, I heard the door of their cell being opened. Murmuring voices reached my straining ears, and then the three martyrs broke into a final poignant melody which seemed to fill the whole prison with sound and then gradually faded away into the distant depths of the condemned section."
After his 1964 execution, Mini was secretly buried in a pauper's grave at Rebecca Street Cemetery in Pretoria. The bodies of Mini, Khayinga and Mkaba were exhumed in 1998 at Rebecca Street Cemetery in Pretoria and he was given a heroes funeral in Port Elizabeth. Mini is remembered not only for how many unions and workers he organized but, as Luckhardt & Wall put it, "more importantly for the spirit and dedication they brought to the struggle." To honour his stand, the ANC Mission Office in Tanzania opened a Furniture factory that was known as the Vuyisile Mini Factory (VMF).
At the time of his death, Mini was married, and had six children. One of his children, Nomkhosi Mini became a member of MK and survived a March 1979 South African Defence Force attack on the Novo Catengue camp in Angola. She was shot dead by members of the notorious Vlakplaas hit squad when they raided two houses in Maseru, Lesotho on December 19, 1985. Seven members of the Security branch, including its then deputy chief were refused amnesty for this killing."
Emlotheni Memorial Park (Moja Heritage)
The Vuyisile Mini Exhibition at Red Location Museum (Janet Cherry)
Vuyisile Mini Adress by Kgalema Motlanthe (SACP)
Vuyisile Mini Lives of COURAGE political Executions (SA history)
Vuyisile Mini Worker, Poet and Martyr for the People (ANC Documents)
Vuyisile Mini was a Unionist (Wikipedia)