Letsau Nelson Diale

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Biographical information

Nelson Diale


Community activist, MK member, Member of Parliament, for his excellent contribution to the struggle against apartheid and for his selfless sacrifice for the attainment of freedom for all in South Africa was awarded The Order of Luthuli in Silver.

First name: 
Middle name: 
Last name: 
Date of birth: 
Location of birth: 
Ga-Masemola, Limpopo,South Africa
Date of death: 
Location of death: 
Jane Furse, Limpopo province,South Africa
Ban information: 
Act No. 44 of 1950 Sec. 9 (1)<br><em>Issued Period(s)</em> [30 June 1973 to 30/9/1974] [30 June 1975 to 30/9/1976] [21 June` 1978 to 31/5/1983]
Restricted to Nebo, Northern Transvaal.Imprisoned on Robben Island for MK activities 1964-72; banned on release; detained early 1977 and charged in the Pretoria Twelve ANC Trial; acquitted with 5 others in April 1978 and subsequently re-banned.

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

Immediately after stepping off the train the police was arrested him; his crime was that he was not in possession of the hated dompas (Identity Document). The police beat him brutally and he was imprisoned. This was to be the beginning of similar brutal treatment that he was to suffer at the hands of the police during most of his life.

He then found work in a hotel as a waiter. He did not enjoy working there as he was harassed by his employer. In 1956 Diale joined the African National Congress (ANC) where he was taught basic political skills. In 1958, he also joined the domestic workers union affiliated to the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), a workers movement allied to the ANC. Diale was active in the ANC until it was banned in 1960.

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

In January 1964, his unit was arrested and he was tortured and beaten for three months. Diale was sent to Robben Island where he served an eight-year sentence. It was here that he met other political prisoners including now President Jacob Zuma.

After his release in 1972, he was banned from organising activities in the community. He then began working underground for the ANC. In 1975, Diale together with Peter Nchabeleng, linked up with the ANC underground network. Diale was involved in a clash with the police where two constables were injured.  The entire, then, Northern Transvaal underground network was rounded up and others were sentenced to long prison terms while some like Diale were acquitted and served with internal banning orders.

Diale 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.

After the April 1994 democratic elections took place in South Africa Diale was elected as a Member of Parliament representing the ANC. Whilst in Parliament he served as a Committee Member on the Portfolio Committees on Defence, Safety and Security and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence.

On 27 April 2011, the State President, Jacob G Zuma honoured Nelson Diale with the Order of Luthuli in Silver for his selfless contributions and sacrifices to the cause of freedom in our country.

Mr Diale died on 8 January 2015 in Jane Furse, Limpopo province. He died on the weekend as his political party, ANC, marked the 103 year anniversary in Cape Town. His death coincided with the year in which ANC celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter.

Mr Diale died on 08 January 2015 in Sekhukhune village in Limpopo province. As one of the most respected anti-apartheid struggle veterans and a former ANC Member of Parliament for 20 years, he got the provincial official funeral where the South African flag was flown half-mast in the Limpopo province. 

• Anon, (2011), Presentation Of National Orders, Nelson Diale , from The Presidency, [online] Available at  www.thepresidency.gov.za  [Accessed  24 May 2011]
• Anon, Letsau Nelson Diale, from Whos who Southern Africa [online], Available at www.whoswhosa.co.za [Accessed on 25 May 2011]
•  allAfrica.com. (2015). South Africa: Passing of Anti-Apartheid Struggle Giant - Nelson Diale available on: http://allafrica.com/stories/201501130566.html [20 January 2015]
•  SABC News (2015). ANC wants official funerals for MEC, Veteran. Available on: http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/da476f0046eb0ecc9fdb9f26c7405250/ANC-wants-... [14 January 2015]

Last updated : 04-Jul-2018

This article was produced for South African History Online on 18-Oct-2011