Organiser for the African Textile Workers Union in Port Elizabeth, member of the ANC and Umkhonto We Sizwe, Treasurer of the South African Congress of Trade Unions, leader of the 1952 Defiance Campaign in the Eastern Cape and an accused in the 195
Lives of Courage
Wilton Z. Mkwayi was a trade unionist who served a life sentence for his involvement in Umkhonto We Sizwe. He was born into a peasant family near Middledrift in the Cape in 1923, and was the oldest of 13 children. Mkwayi finished the sixth grade, then he worked as a labourer, a clerk, and a stevedore.He became a union organiser for the African Textile Workers in Port Elizabeth in the early 1950s, he later served as treasurer of the South African Congress of Trade Unions.
He was a leader of the 1952 Defiance Campaign in the eastern Cape and was later among the first-string accused in the Treason Trial.
When other treason defendants were detained during the 1960 state of emergency, Mkwayi went into hiding and then left South Africa to enlist foreign support for the Congress movement. He later returned secretly to South Africa and was arrested in 1964 and charged with helping to organise Umkhonto We Sizwe. He was imprisoned on Robben Island.