Mkhuseli Jack

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People category:

Biographical information

Synopsis:

Political activist, Eastern Cape UDF Executive member, businessperson

First name: 
Mkhuseli
Last name: 
Jack
Date of birth: 
31 May 1958
Location of birth: 
Humansdorp, Eastern Cape

Mkhuseli Jack was born on the farm Mosskraal in Humansdorp on 31 May 1958.  Jack was the second youngest of eight children of Fikile and Alice Jack, a domestic worker.

When Jack was six years old, his family moved to the farm Klipdrift near Oyster Bay.  Jack attended the Slangriver Bantu School, an Anglican school where he completed Standard Four.  As he had no permit to continue his schooling in Humansdorp, he completed Standard Five and Six at Jeffreys Bay and then went to Port Elizabeth to stay with an uncle.  Upon his arrival, he was told that he could not attend school as he did not have a permit to be in the area. 

In 1975 he and other children from the rural areas were involved in protests and demonstrations at school, refusing to return home and demanding an education.  When they were finally allowed to stay they were housed in old police barracks.

Jack completed Standard Seven and Eight at Loyiso Secondary School and matriculated at Cowan High School in 1982.  In 1979 his academic year was interrupted when he was arrested, and this happened again during the 1980 school boycott, and yet again with his detention in 1981.

He was arrested in August 1976 and held at the Algoa Police Station for two weeks. 

In 1977, he was arrested again, this time at a student meeting, and detained for three weeks.  As he was small in stature, he gave his age as younger than he really was.  Because of this, he was released earlier than his colleagues were.  During this period he was active in the South African Students Movement (SASM), which was linked to the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM).  He came into close contact with Barney Pityana and his wife, and BC proponents who lived in the same street as he did.  The Pityanas helped to mould some of Jack’s early political views. 

Jack returned to school in 1978 and became the head prefect in 1979.  He was also the Chair of the Student Christian Movement (SCM) and, following the banning of SASM, was among those who established the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) in Port Elizabeth. 

Whilst writing his matriculation examinations in 1979 he was arrested and detained at the Walmer Police Station for 14 days.  He was released without being charged.  During the 1980 school boycotts he was elected the Chair of the Port Elizabeth Student Committee (Pesco) which co-ordinated the boycott.  He was arrested three times in 1980. In September 1980 he was detained under the Internal Security Act and held at Modderbee Prison, Benoni until February 1981.  On 29 May 1981 Jack was arrested for his anti-Republic Day activities and detained at the Baakens Police station in Port Elizabeth for three months.

In January 1982 he travelled to Mdantsane, Ciskei to address a commemoration service for Dr Neil Aggett, a trade unionist who had died in police detention.  Jack was detained for three months at the rural Punzana police station near King Williams Town.  Upon his release, he returned to school in Port Elizabeth, matriculating that year.

In 1983, Jack found employment as a factory clerk at Imperial Gold Storage but was later retrenched.  He then worked as a sales representative for a hardware company. Jack was instrumental in the launch of the Port Elizabeth Youth Congress (Peyco) in 1983 and was elected its President.  Through Peyco he became involved in a number of campaigns including those against the Black Local Authorities Act, the UDF Million Signature Campaign and the campaign against election of the House of Representatives in the tricameral parliament, resistance to rent increases, stayaways and the consumer boycott in Port Elizabeth. 

Following police action and killings in the Port Elizabeth area, Jack was elected spokesperson of the Port Elizabeth Boycott Committee in 1985.  On 15 July 1985, the consumer boycott of white owned stores in Port Elizabeth began, and continued until 31 November.

A few days after the consumer boycott began, the government declared a state of emergency in Port Elizabeth.  Jack was detained for four months this time.  He travelled to Belgium, Holland and the United Kingdom in 1986 to address various groupings on the boycott.  Upon his return, the Minister of Law and Order, Louis le Grange, imposed a five year banning order on him, restricting him to New Brighton Township.  The Port Elizabeth Supreme Court overturned the banning order on the grounds that the Minister had exceeded the powers given to him and that he had failed to provide adequate reasons for his banning.

On 25 August 1986, Jack was detained under state of emergency laws and only released from St Albans Prison, Port Elizabeth on 16 May 1989.  He was again issued with banning orders. The organisational responsibilities for the rally to welcome Nelson Mandela after his release from prison fell on the shoulders of Mkhuseli Jack, president of the Port Elizabeth Youth Congress.  Jack and a delegation met the Mandelas at Walter Sisulu’s house in Soweto, Johannesburg, and asked them to come to Port Elizabeth to greet their supporters.

“Every time I spoke to Madiba and Winnie they agreed they were coming to PE. He wanted to come, but the committee handling him always changed the plan at the last minute,” Jack said. “(The committee) would tell us Mandela was going to Addis Ababa or Lusaka or somewhere. He was being paraded all over (the world).  We’d set a date and then we’d have to cancel at the last minute. They caused great frustration for us,” he said.

Finally, the date was set for April 1, 1990, when Mandela came to address the people of Port Elizabeth.

In the 1990s, Jack earned an honours degree in economics and development studies at Sussex University in Britain and is now a successful businessman in Port Elizabeth. In November 1997, Gerhardus Johannes Nieuwoudt applied to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for amnesty in respect of his assault upon Jack at Louis le Grange Square, Security Branch offices in Port Elizabeth on 12 August 1985. The applicant was a member of the Security Branch in Port Elizabeth  at the time.  Nieuwoudt’s application for amnesty was refused by the TRC.

Jack has been named as one of a group of powerful Eastern Cape businesspeople that emerged as bankrollers of the breakaway political party, the Congress of the People (Cope) in 2009.

He is a currently a business executive in the Eastern Cape.


References:
• Gastrow, S. (1990). Who's Who in South African Politics. Volume 3. Johannesburg: Ravan Press (Pty) Ltd.
• Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Amnesty Committee [Online]. Available at: justice.gov.za/ [Accessed 12 February 2010]
• Markman, I. 2010. Record-breaking rally greeted Madiba in PEThe Herald [Online] 11 February. Available at: theherald.co.za/ [Accessed 12 February 2010]
• Miti, S. 2009. Top business people in EC funding CopeBusiness Reporter [Online] 12 January. Available at: dispatch.co.za/ [Accessed 12 February 2010]  

Last updated : 28-Jun-2012

This article was produced for South African History Online on 27-Aug-2011