Reverend Walker Stanley Gawe

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Biographical information


Member of the Industrial and Commercial Worker’s Union (ICU), active in the 1952 Defiance Campaign, President of the Cape Branch of the African National Congress (ANC), accused in the Treason Trial.

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Location of birth: 
Herschel District, Cape Province (now Western Cape), South Africa
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Location of death: 
Zwelitsha, King Williamstown, Eastern Cape (now Eastern Province), South Africa

Gawe was born in 1900 in the Herschel district of the Cape, where both his parents were teachers. He attended St. Matthew's College and later trained as an Anglican Priest.

He joined the Industrial and Commercial Worker’s Union (ICU), and in 1926 he became a member of the African National Congress (ANC). Gawe married Regina in 1936 and during World War II, he served as chaplain in the Native Military Corps.

Reverend Gawe took part in the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign in 1952, and went on to succeed Professor Z K Matthews as the ANC’s Cape President in 1955. However, he could not be present, and his address was read out to the conference.

Arrested on charges of treason on 5 December 1956, Gawe was detained at the Fort in Johannesburg. On 21 December he was released on bail of £50, and later charges were withdrawn against him.

During detention at the Fort, the 155 accused were separated into four groups by the prison authorities, with Gawe allocated to the cell occupied by the younger accused. Daily, when those who shared the cell had left for their morning exercises, Gawe would say his prayers.

Reverend Walker Stanley Gawe lived in Zwelitsha, near King Williamstown, and passed away on 16 October 1980. In August 2005, his wife Regina celebrated her 100th birthday.

• “Reverend Walker Gawe” [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 March 2009]
• “Apartheid Icon Regina Gawe turns 100” (2005) [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 March 2009]
• Naidoo, P. (2006) 156 Hands that built South Africa. Published by the author. p. 66 - 68

Last updated : 21-Jun-2018

This article was produced by South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011

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