ANC stalwart and Rivonia Trialist, Govan Mbeki, is released from Robben Island Prison


Govan Mbeki. Source:

Thursday, 5 November 1987

On 5 November 1987, Govan Mbeki, member of African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee and Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) High Command, was released from Robben Island after twenty-three years in prison. His release followed a call for all political prisoners to be freed, as apartheid was dying. Upon his release the government restricted him to the magisterial district of Port Elizabeth until November 1989. In February 1990, when the ANC and other liberation movements were unbanned he resumed his duties on the ANC’s national committee.

While on Robben Island, Mbeki wrote many songs and manuscripts, which were smuggled out of prison. These writings are referred to as the Govan Mbeki Collection and are housed at the University of Fort Hare. In 1954 Govan Mbeki joined the editorial team of the political newspaper, the New Age. Mbeki was sentenced to life imprisonment during the 1964 Rivonia Trial with Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada,Dennis Goldberg and others. In 1980 he received the Isitwalandwe Medal, the highest award within the ANC, for his dedication to securing freedom and democracy in South Africa.

Govan Mbeki passed away on 30 August 2001 at the age of 91.

• Boddy-Evans, A., (2011). ‘Death of a Dedicated Political Leader’ from African History [online] Available at [Accessed: 13 October 2011]
•  South African Communist Party (2009). ‘Govan Mbeki’[online] Available at [Accessed: 13 October 2011]

Last updated : 05-Nov-2013

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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