Former member of the African National Congress, volunteer-in-chief in the Eastern Cape in the 1952 Defiance Campaign, Chairman of the ANC’s Border Region, accused in the 1956 Treason Trial. Later joined the Pan Africanist Co
Nzimeni Elliot Mfaxa was born in 1926 at KwaGusha Farm in Somerset West. Mfaxa moved to the Eastern Cape to attend secondary school at Lovedale College, where he became involved in politics and met P. K. Leballo. In 1949 he was recruited into the African National Congress (ANC) in Port Elizabeth by Raymond Mhlaba, who was later sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.
Mfaxa taught for a short time and worked as clerk but devoted much of his time to organizing for the ANC and the Cape Youth League, of which he became a provincial official.
Mfaxa was part of the 1952 Defiance Campaign committee and was nominated as volunteer-in-chief in the Eastern Cape. The same year he was elected chairman of the ANC’s Border Region and was arrested and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. In addition he was banned from attending political meetings. He was later sentenced to 9 months for contravening the condition of his banning order under the Suppression of Communism Act and was prohibited from attending gatherings.
Mfaxa first connected with the Africanist movement in 1952-1953, when he helped issue the ephemeral bulletin of the East London based Bureau of African Nationalism. Mfaxa opposed the formation of the Congress alliance.
In 1953 he was arrested again and sentenced to nine months in prison for addressing a meeting. Mfaxa began his ANC work again in 1955, but he was arrested in December 1956 and charged with treason in the infamous Treason Trial along with 156 others. The charges against him were withdrawn approximately a year later.
In 1959 Mfaxa joined a group of Africanists who broke away from the ANC and formed the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) under Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe. Mfaxa became the PAC’s first national organiser. He was part of the group that launched the 1960 ‘Decisive Positive Anti-Pass Campaign’ that resulted in the Sharpeville and Langa Massacres. He was arrested following the Sharpeville shooting and served a two-year sentence. After his release in 1962 he went into exile in Lesotho, where he worked as a teacher.
From 1981 to 1991 Mfaxa headed the PAC’s Department of Education in Dar es Salaam and from 1992 to 1993 he served as the PAC’s first secretary for the PAC Border Region. From 1993 to 1998 he taught at Mzontsudu Senior Secondary School, Quzini, King William’s Town, under the leadership of Mr Kakaza. He later served in the local Veterans’ Association and kept busy by farming.
Mfaxa died at age 83 after an asthma attack on October 16 2008. He was at his home in Tyutyu Village, outside King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape. He is survived by a son, Sizwe, and a daughter, Xoliswa, and 16 grandchildren.
• Information from a history exhibition at Museum Africa (circa 2001) on the Treason Trial. Exhibition based on a book on the Treason Trial.