Bonakele Milner Ntsangani

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Biographical information

Bonakele Milner Ntsangani


Musician, charged in the 1956 Treason Trial, involved in the Rivonia Trial, Robben Island prisoner and served as an MK commander in the Border region

First name: 
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Date of birth: 
Location of birth: 
Middledrif, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Date of death: 

Bonakele Milner Ntsangani was born in 1923 in Middledrift in the Eastern Cape. He was one of six children and had a twin brother. He attended school at Welsh High in East London, where his father worked.

After school Ntsangani worked in P.E. and started a jazz group. He was an accomplished musician.

Ntsangani joined the African National Congress (ANC) in the mid-1940s and joined the South African Communist Party at an unknown date. As an ANC activist, Ntsangani was particularly active in the New Brighton branch in Port Elizabeth and in the 1952 Defiance Campaign, from which he was banned.

While working as a sales agent in Middledrift in the Cape in 1956 he was arrested and charged with treason in the infamous Treason Trial (1956), he was acquitted.  

Ntsangani was also involved in the Rivonia Trial (1963) and as a result he spent approximately 6 years in Robben Island Prison. He was released in 1969 and banished to Middledrift. During the 1970s and 1980s Ntsangani’s son indicated that his father spent months every year in detention without trial at Fort Glamorgan in East London. Albeit his baning orders Ntsangani served as an MK commander in the Border region and worked underground with comrades like Charles Nqakula, Steve Tshwete and others.

He passed away in 1989. He was a sickly person since childhood as he suffered from asthma, one of the things that led to his death. He is survived by his sister Bukelwa Gertrude Ntsangani, and his two sons, Lazola Ntsangani and Mziwoxolo Ntsangani.

• Museum Africa Archives
• Lazola Ntsangani, Bonakele Milner Ntsangani’s son. email:

Last updated : 17-Nov-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 03-May-2011