Muzuvukile Curnick Ndlovu was born in 1932 in Matatiele. His family moved to uMkhumbane settlement in Durban in 1941. After the demolition of Cator Manor and subsequent forced removals in the 1950s, his family moved to KwaMashu. It was the untenable conditions of poverty under which he and his family lived under that compelled him to join politics.
Ndlovu joined the African National Congress at the age of 20 in 1952 during the Defiance Campaign. During this period, he joined the labour movement and in the late 1950s became an organizer in the South African Railway and Harbours Union (SARHWU) which was linked to the South African Congress of Trade Unions(SACTU). Later, Ndlovu served on the Durban branch of SACTU's Executive Committee rising through the ranks to become the Natal Secretary. He was instrumental in exposing agents sent by the government to disrupt anti apartheid activities in the trade union movement.
In 1961 uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) the armed wing of the ANC was formed. Ndlovu was appointed as the first leader of the Natal Regional Command. He served alongside Billy Nair, George Naicker, Ebrahim EbrahimRonnie Kasrils, Eric Mtshali and Bruno Mtolo among others. The unit actively recruited cadres into MK and also carried out sabotage attacks on government installations around the Durban area between December 1961 and June 1963. For instance, one of the sabotage operations that Ndlovu and his comrades carried out was the bombing of the Durban pass office. This was followed by the blowing up of a pylon in Morningside which plunged Durban into darkness.
Around August 1963 the apartheid government arrested a number of people belonging to the Natal Regional Command. Amongst those arrested were Ndlovu, Billy Nair, Bruno Mtolo and 14 others including Eleanor Kasrils who later escaped and fled to exile. Ndlovu together with his comrades was tried in Pietermaritzburg. Bruno Mtolo who had been part of the Natal Regional Command turned state witness and exposed the activities of MK leading to further arrests. Mtolo later testified in the in favour of the state in the Rivonia trial. Ndlovu was sentenced to 20 years in prison and sent to serve his sentence on Robben Island.
In prison, he played an important role in unifying comrades from different political organizations and became active in advocating for better living conditions in prison. After the arrival of political prisoner from the Black Consciousness Movement, he successfully recruited some of them for the ANC.
After his release from prison in 1983, Ndlovu continued his political activities by joining the United Democratic Front (UDF). He was elected as the National Chairperson of the UDF and a trade union educator. It was around this time that he and Archie Gumede attempted to end violence in the Natal (now Kwazulu/Natal) province. In addressing a gathering to honour those killed by apartheid government in 1986, Ndlovu lamented the issue of political violence. He warned that
"The apartheid system is trying to keep us divided and quarrelsome so that we end up fighting each other and not the Pretoria regime”¦and it is having too much success at this turning of brother against brother." (Los Angeles Times, 22 March 1986)
As a result of his political activities, Ndlovu was forced to go underground due to harassment by the security police and remained underground for most of the 1980’s.
After the first democratic elections in 1994, Ndlovu became a Member of Parliament where he served up until his retirement in 1999 and also served on the KwaZulu Natal provincial legislature. Ndlovu died on 22 May 2002 at the age of 70. He is survived by his wife, daughter and granddaughter.
• SADET, ‘The road to democracy project’ fromSADET,[online] Available at www.sadet.co.za [Accessed on 29 November 2011]
• SACP ‘SACP Statement on Passing Away of Comrade Curnick Ndlovu’ from SACP [online] Available at www.sacp.co.za [Accessed on 29 November 2011]
• Durban’ Gen. Joseph Nduli and Curnick Ndlovu’ from eThekwini Municipality, [online] Available at www.durban.gov.za[Accessed on 29 November 2011]
• Amnesty granted to former ANC, UDF leader, from News24.com, 8 April, [online], Available at www.news24.com [Accessed on 29 November 2011]
• Kasrils, R, (2010),The Unlikely Secret Agent, (Johannesburg), p.162
• Parks, M, (1986), S. African Blacks Protest to Honor Dead, from the Los Angeles Times, 22 March, [online] Available at https://articles.latimes.com [Accessed on 29 November 2011]
Dear friends of SAHO
South African History Online (SAHO) needs your support.
SAHO is one of the most visited websites in South Africa with over 6 million unique users a year. Our goal is to fulfill our mandate and continue to build, and make accessible, a new people’s history of South Africa and Africa.
Please help us deliver this by contributing upwards of $1.00 a month for the next 12 months.