Riot Makhomanisi Mkhwanazi
The Order of Mendi for Bravery in
Profile of Riot Mkhwanazi
Riot Mkhwanazi comes from a legacy of a proud people who never accepted apartheid. His father Madonso Mkhwanazi was one of the first people who defied apartheid laws by burning his ‘dompas’ (pass book) in 1930 during the burning of the dompas campaign. Madonso’s son, Riot, followed in his footsteps.
Mkhwanazi came into contact with activists such as Steven Dlamini of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), who taught him politics. In 1959, he joined the ANC, the ANC Youth League and SACTU and was active in the Defiance Campaign and general resistance to apartheid. In 1962, he joined Umkhonto we Sizwe and was arrested in Zeerust, in the Marico Valley, now known as the Ngaka Modiri Molema District in North West.
In 1964, he was arrested with Jacob Zuma, now President, when they were crossing the South African border to Botswana. Both were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on Robben Island. There Mkhwanazi learned to read and write and participated in political education and debates. Soon before his release from Robben Island in 1974, Mkhwanazi, along with other prisoners due for release, received a letter from Nelson Mandela urging them to continue the struggle where they had left off before their arrest and imprisonment.
After his release, Mkhwanazi was banned. He subsequently went into exile and spent many years in Mozambique, until the Nkomati Accord forced him and other ANC cadres to move out. He returned to South Africa in the early 1990s, along with others who had been in exile.
Although Mkhwanazi is retired, he continues to inspire young people within the ANC with spellbinding stories of the struggle. He lives a peaceful life in KwaZulu-Natal.