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Nelson Diale (1936 - )

The Order of Luthuli in

Nelson Diale (1936 - ) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the struggle against apartheid and for his selfless sacrifices for the attainment of freedom for all in South Africa.

Profile of Nelson Diale

Mr Nelson Diale was born on 1 January 1936 at Ga-Masemola in Limpopo and spent most of his childhood years there. He attended school with Sekobetlane Maphutha. In 1952, he left Ga-Masemola for Pretoria in search of employment. 

He was arrested by police immediately after stepping out of the train; his crime was that he was not in possession of the hated dompas (Identity Document). He was brutally beaten by police and slept in jail. This was to be the beginning of much brutal treatment he was to suffer at the hands of the police during most of his life. 

He then worked in a hotel as a waiter. He did not enjoy working there as he was tortured and harassed by his employer. Mr Diale joined the struggle for liberation in 1956 when he joined the African National Congress (ANC) where he was taught basic political skills. He was active in the ANC until it was banned in 1960. Around the same time in 1958, he also joined the domestic workers union affiliated to the South African Congress of Trade Unions, a workers movement allied to the ANC. 

In 1960, when the ANC was banned, Mr Diale was among the first cadres to be recruited to its military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, but he chose to remain inside the country and undergo internal training. Those who worked inside the country were taught how to make homemade bombs and explosives and how to operate them. 

In January 1964, his unit was arrested, tortured and beaten for three months, sometimes while being naked. He was sent to Robben Island where he served an eight-year term. It was here that he met other political leaders arrested for the same reasons, including President Jacob Zuma. 

After his release in 1972, he was banned from organising activities in the community. Shortly after his release from Robben Island, he worked underground for the ANC. 

In 1975, Mr Diale together with Mr Peter Nchabeleng, linked up with the underground network. The entire Northern Transvaal underground network was rounded up and others were sentenced to long prison terms while some like Mr Diale were acquitted and served with internal banning orders.

Mr Diale continued being part of the struggle against the hated apartheid system.

He later worked with Dr Aaron Motsoaledi in establishing the Sekhukhune Advice Office, a centre which was dedicated to helping activists, victims and their relatives financially and logistically and which offered advice to those who needed it. 

When the democratic breakthrough took place in South Africa in April 1994, Mr Diale was elected as a Member of Parliament representing the ANC. He served his country with dedication and humility while in Parliament. 

He was a courageous stalwart freedom fighter, one who sacrificed a great deal of his life to the liberation struggle, fighting for the freedom of the oppressed and equal opportunities to be afforded to everyone, determined to eradicate inequality and oppression. 

We are proud to honour Mr Nelson Diale with the Order of Luthuli in Silver for his selfless contributions and sacrifices to the cause of freedom in our country.