Trade unionist, member of the ANC, President of the UDF (Western Cape)
Lives of Courage
Zolile Malindi was born in 1924 in Gqogqora , a village near Tsomo in the former Transkei. His mother, Makhesa, raised him after the death of his father, Mbulawa Malindi, an elder in the Bantu Presbytarian Church, when Zolile was ten years old.
He attended a mission school in the Tsomo district following which he enrolled at St John’s College, a teacher training college in Umtata. He received his teaching diplomoa in 1943.
In 1941, Malindi moved to Cape Town to look for work. He initially stayed at Langa in a hostel for migrant workers where he shared one room with between 20 and 30 people. He got his first job in Cape Town as a cleaner in a bioscope called Savoy Theatre, earning three pounds a week. Malindi did not remain at the Savoy long. Towards the end of World War II, he moved to a better paying job at Baumann.
The experience of unjust laws pushed him to get involved in politics. Having an education and a sense of dignity, Malindi did not tolerate unjust laws in the workplace and the harsh realities of being African and unemployed saw him join the Communist Party in 1946. A few years later, he joined the African National Congress (ANC). He was among the people who went from door to door asking people for ideas for the Freedom Charter and attended the Congress of the People at Kliptown in 1955 where 3,000 representatives of resistance organisations gathered to draw up the Freedom Charter, an alternative vision to the repressive policies of the apartheid state. When police raided the Congress of the People, searched everyone and demanded that all documents be surrendered, Malindi hid a Xhosa version of the Freedom Charter in his sock. This was the only Xhosa copy to survive the raid. He was also involved in the Anti-Pass Campaigns of the 1950 and early 1960’s.
Through his involvement with the Communist Party, Malindi became involved in trade union activities while working as a cleaner for a hairdresser in Woodstock, Cape Town. He joined the non-racial National Union of Distributive Workers, which consisted of African, coloured and white people, although Africans were not officially recognised as members of Unions.
At the time of the ANC’s banning in 1960, Malindi was the Western Cape Provincial President. Following the passage of the 90-day detention laws in 1963, Malindi was arrested and detained together with Looksmart Ngudle, who was the first person to die in detention. Driven to Johannesburg for further interrogation, he was severely tortured and almost died. In 1964 he was sentenced to six years imprisonment, but won the case on appeal. However, he was detained and banned on several subsequent occasions. In all, he was banned for 12 years of his life.
meet with exiles and ANC agents.
Malindi married Lettie Mathebe in 1952 and they had four children together, Nkululeko, Bonisile, Skhumbuzo (deceased) and Thembeka.
Malindi died on 21 April 2008. The following day President Thabo Mbeki awarded Malindi the Order of Luthuli in recognition of his contribution to the trade-union movement and service to the South African struggle for democracy.