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Zolile Malindi (1924 - )

The Order of Luthuli in

Zolile Malindi (1924 - ) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the trade-union movement and political struggle against apartheid.

Profile of Zolile Malindi

Zolile Malindi was born in 1924 in Gqogqora, a village near Tsomo in the former Transkei. He was brought up by his mother after the death of his father when Zolile was only 10 years old. His father was an elder of the Bantu Presbyterian Church.

After he passed Standard Five in Gqogqora, he went to the mission school in Tsomo District where he completed Standard Six and enrolled at a teachers’ training college, St John’s College in Umtata, where he completed the Native Primary Lower Teaching Diplomain 1943.

In 1941, Malindi moved to Cape Town to look for work. The experience of unjust laws pushed him to get involved in politics. He initially stayed at Langa in a hostel for migrant workers where he shared one room with between 20 and 30 people. He got his firstjob in Cape Town as a cleaner in a bioscope called Savoy Theatre, earning three pounds a week. Malindi did not remain at the Savoylong. Towards the end of World War II, he moved to a better paying job at Baumann.

Having an education and a sense of dignity, Malindi did not tolerate unjust laws in the workplace. His employment adventure included working as a labourer mixing sand and cement at construction sites, as a petrol attendant and a taxi driver.

The harsh realities of being African and unemployed saw him join the Communist Party in 1946 in a quest to fight for equality. A few years later, he joined the African National Congress (ANC). He was among the people who went from door to door asking people for ideas for the Freedom Charter. He attended the Congress of the People at Kliptown in 1955 where 3 000 representatives of resistance organisations gathered to draw up the Freedom Charter, an alternative vision to the repressive policies of the apartheid state.

After the gathering in Kliptown, the security police demanded that people hand over all the documents in their possession and they searched everyone. Malindi managed to hide a Xhosa version of the Freedom Charter in his sock.

He was also involved in the Anti-Pass Campaign. It was through the Communist Party that Malindi became aware of trade unions. He got involved in union activities while working as a cleaner for a hairdresser in Woodstock.

He joined the National Union of Distributive Workers, which consisted of African, coloured and white people, although Africans were not officially recognised due to apartheid laws.

Malindi believed strongly in equality and could not tolerate the oppressive and degrading conditions under which African workers toiled. He therefore saw the trade-union movement and the Communist Party as vehicles to bring about a better country where a colour of a person’s skin would not determine their destiny.

When the ANC was banned in 1960, Malindi was regional president. After the State of Emergency, he was detained and banned several times, not directly in connection with his union work but because he continued his political activities. In all, he was banned for12 years of his life.

Zolile “Zollie” Malindi’s determination to make a difference saw him overcome the historically imposed impediments on his life to become a political leader of note, contributing to the achievement of democracy and justice in his country of birth.

Malindi married Lettie Mathebe in 1952. They are blessed with four children: Nkululeko, Bonisile, the late Skhumbuzo and Thembeka.