Mlungisi Griffiths Mxenge and Victoria Nonyamezelo
The Order of Luthuli in
Profile of Mlungisi Griffiths Mxenge and Victoria Nonyamezelo
Mlungisi Griffiths Mxenge was born in 1935 in King Williams Town. He was a member of the African National Congress (ANC) from the mid-1950s when he was a BA student at the University of Fort Hare. He later studied for an LLB degree at the University of Natal.
His LLB studies were interrupted when he was convicted of being a member of the ANC (after it was banned in 1960) and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on Robben Island. He returned to complete his degree and went on to become a well-known civil rights lawyer who fearlessly defended the victims of the apartheid regime despite being harassed, detained and banned on frequent occasions. He was brutally murdered on 19 November 1981.
Victoria Nonyamezelo Mxenge was born in Tamara Village in King William’s Town in January 1942 to the late Wilmot Gosa and Nobantu Ntebe. After completing her primary education in Tamara, she proceeded to Ginsberg and later Fort Beaufort where she obtained a junior certificate at Forbes Grant Secondary School. She matriculated in 1959 at Healdtown High School. In 1964, she graduated as a nurse at Victoria Hospital.
In the same year, she moved to KwaZulu-Natal soon after she had married Mlungisi Griffiths Mxenge who was studying for a law degree at the University of Natal. After completing her midwifery studies at the King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban, she joined a local clinic in Umlazi as a nurse.
Mxenge opened his own law firm in Durban where he pursued illusive justice for many black anti-apartheid activists.
In 1981, Mrs Mxenge obtained a law degree from Unisa and joined her husband’s law firm in Durban. She was subsequently admitted as a lawyer during the same year. Griffiths was tragically and brutally assassinated in November 1981.
Mrs Mxenge had to keep the law practice going and began to play a more prominent role as a human rights lawyer and a political activist.
She became a member of the Natal Organisation for Women, an affiliate of the United Democratic Front (UDF). Mrs Mxenge became heavily involved in the mass mobilisation of people and also began to address political gatherings. She delivered a powerful message at one of the biggest anti-apartheid activists’ funerals in Cradock in July 1985 – the Cradock Four (Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli).
Mrs Mxenge defended victims of the apartheid system and became a fierce opponent of state brutality and a beacon of light for the people of KwaZulu-Natal, including the youth, students and members of other political formations. As a member of the Pietermaritzburg UDF Treason Trial defence team, she worked tirelessly in collecting evidence and preparing for the trial.
Like her husband before her, Mrs Mxenge was brutally murdered in front of her children on the driveway of her home in Umlazi. In 1987, a Durban magistrate refused a formal inquest into her killing and ruled that she had died of head injuries and had been murdered by persons unknown.
Victoria Nonyamezelo and Griffiths Mxenge paid the supreme price for defending the rights of oppressed South Africans to exist in conditions of freedom, justice, peace and democracy. As husband and wife, they forfeited family life in pursuit of the broader family of humanity, united under non-racialism, non-sexism and justice for all South Africans. Their brutal killings at the hands of heartless mercenaries and assassins galvanised oppressed South Africans into vigorous actions to bring about liberation in South Africa.
Mr and Mrs Mxenge are buried next to each other in Rayi Cemetery near King William’s Town.