trade unionist, member of the ANC, SACP, SACTU and MK
Leonard Maqhatshu Mdingi was born on 2 February1926. He grew up at his family homesteads first near Bizana, and then in Amadiba Location towards the coast in the Eastern Cape. As a young man in 1950s, he worked for a few years as a migrant worker on the sugar fields in Natal and in the mines in Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng).
He then settled in Durban, Natal (now kwaZulu-Natal) and become involved with the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party (SACP), and the ANC-aligned South African Congress of Trade Union (SACTU) and later the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).He recruited President Jacob Zuma into ANC in the 1950s. He was arrested, and banished for 15 years to Umlazi near Durban.
In 1975, Mdingi was brutally tortured by Durban security policemen after being arrested for harbouring ANC followers. ”‰He was assaulted and made to stand on one leg for long periods. He was then, wrapped in a cloth and put in dry ice for about five hours. He suffered internal injuries. Mdingi was banned and suffered several spells of detention under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act No. 83 of 1967. He travelled to Lusaka to deliver intelligence to the ANC exile.
He was a grass-roots trade union organiser. He was one of the only two members of the Kongolo Pondo Resistance Movement (the other one being Anderson Khumani Ganyile) that led to the Pondo Revolt that resulted in a massacre of the Amampondo in 1960 at Ingquza Hill. He was the key person for communication between the ANC and the Mpondo rebel leadership.The Kongolo movement resisted the introduction of the Transkei Maziphathe (Transkei homeland Government).
After the rebellion, Mdingi spent most of his time in Durban and continued to work underground in the ANC. In the mid 1970s, he was in an ANC cell with Jacob Zuma. After his release from prison, he was sent back to Bizana, Eastern Cape, and warned by the police not to return to Durban. He was arrested by the Joint Transkei Police and South African Special Branch for carrying out bombings in the Umzamba Wild Coast.
Since the late 1950s, when his trade union activities made it difficult for him to find employment, he ran a small tailor business making amongst other things, traditional clothes for Mpondo women in the sugar fields in Natal.
In 1982, he set up shop in a back room in Bizana. In 2009, he was still making clothes and living in his workshop in the small industrial estate on the edge of Bizana town. He was part of a network of dissidents in the Transkei.
Leonard MaqhatshuMdingi died at the age of 86 after a long illness on 10 November 2013 in Bizana. He was buried on 24 November 2013 in Bizana, Eastern Cape.
• Sapa, (2013), “Mdingi: Another Unsung Hero Dies”, from Sapa, [online], Available at www.news.howzit.msn.com [Accessed: 18 February 2014]
• Andrea, Leonard Maqhatshu Mdingi, from Remembered.co.za, online, Available at www.remembered.co.za [Accessed: 18 February 2014]