19 November 2011

Griffiths Mxenge, a fallen hero!

It was the 19th of November 1981 when this great political activist was assassinated by the apartheid secret police in Umlazi, a township south of Durban, KwaZulu Natal. His crime: fighting for freedom!

As if that wasn't enough grief for the Mxenge family and racially oppressed South Africans, his wife Victoria was to face the same fate. The Mxenge children's ordeal was worsened by their mother's brutal murder, which occurred in their presence.

Griffiths Mlungisi Mxenge was born in 1935 in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape. He joined the African National Congress (ANC) during the 1950's whilst studying for a BA at Fort Hare University. He later obtained an LLB at the University of Natal (now University of KwaZulu Natal). He settled in Durban, KwaZulu Natal, where he opened a law practice.

Like many activists at the time, he was also imprisoned at Robben Island for his political activities. He was a well-respected human rights lawyer who fearlessly defended victims of apartheid despite being harassed, detained and banned on many occasions - this was never a deterrent to him.

His wife initially qualified as a nurse, however, she was so deeply inspired by her husband's work that she also obtained a law degree and joined Griffiths at his law firm as a human rights lawyer as well.

Following her husband's assassination, she kept the practice running and played a more prominent role as a human rights lawyer and a political activist. She was brutally murdered on the driveway of her home by unidentified persons in front of her children.

Both Victoria and Griffiths Mxenge were honoured by the South African government by being awarded the Order of Luthuli in silver, for their contribution to the field of law and sacrifices made in the fight against apartheid oppression.

The Order of Luthuli is a South African honour granted by the president for contributions to South Africa in the following fields: the struggle for democracy; building democracy and human rights; nation-building; justice and peace; and conflict resolution.
It is named after former ANC president, the late Chief Albert Luthuli, a Nobel Laureate.


SAHA is in possession of material on TRC amnesty applications of Security Branch members, some of which were involved in Griffiths Mxenge's assassination. The material is in the following collection:


SAHA is also in possession of images of Griffiths's wife, Victoria Mxenge, in the following collection:

AL2547 The SAHA Original Photograph Collection