The Order of Mendi for Bravery in
Profile of Erci Mtshali
Eric Mtshali was born and bred in Durban, in the erstwhile Natal province (now KwaZulu-Natal), where he received his primary and secondary education. After completing his high-school education, Mtshali became increasingly active in the anti-apartheid movement in Natal. The liberation struggle became a definitive feature of Mtshali’s daily existence as he was among those in the forefront of the anti-apartheid movement in Natal. He became a trade unionist, leader in the African National Congress’s (ANC) military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), and later, a Member of Parliament in the post-1994 democratic dispensation.
Mtshali was involved in mobilising organised labour to protest against the injustices of the then South African Government. In 1951, he mobilised workers in the Dock and Harbour Workers Union, and workers in the textile industry to protest against the repressive apartheid state. In 1957 individuals who were prominent leaders of the liberation struggle in Natal, Stephen Dlamini, MP Naicker, Wilson Cele and Harry Gwala, recuited Mtshali into the South African Communist Party (SACP).
The following year he joined the ANC and became part of the people who founded MK in 1961. These developments resulted in his deep involvement in the liberation struggle as he was now part of the broader machinery, led by the ANC, which fought apartheid. He was elected as a member of MK’s underground operations team in Natal, whose primary objective was to advance the liberation struggle.
Mtshali was sent to the Soviet Union for military and intelligence training, and later to Cuba. On his return to Tanzania where MK had its first military base, he was appointed Chief of Personnel and served under Moses Kotane, JB Marks and Moses Mabhida.
As Chief of Personnel, he was responsible for transporting MK members and military hardware across the Zambezi River. Together with Chris Hani, Benson Ntsele and Don Nangu, they founded Dawn, a weekly journal of MK. He was editor of Dawn magazine from 1964 to 1969.
He was one of the founders of some of the ANC’s intelligence units. He has also represented South African workers in the World Federation of Trade Unions in Prague and Czechoslovakia. Since 1994 Mtshali has served in different government positions. He is presently an active member of the SACP. Mtshali is the last surviving founding member of the ANC Imbokodo.