Nkosinathi Benson Fihla was born on 13th June of 1932 in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Province (now Eastern Cape). Fihla grew up in PE from 1945, after his parents found work there as labourers. He completed tenth grade at Newell High School, then in 1952 he earned a teaching diploma at Lovedale. While there he attended political study groups run mainly by students from the nearby University of Fort Hare, and in 1954 he joined the African National Congress Youth League(ANCYL). He attended Healdtown for a short time in 1953 for its physical education course but was expelled for taking part in a student strike over food. As an outstanding athlete, he later helped organize non-racial sports groups and campaigned for a sporting boycott of South Africa.

In 1954 to 1963 Fihla worked as a cleaner at Barclays Bank in Port Elizabeth. Mostly through the influence of Govan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba, he also became a member of the outlawed Communist Party in 1961 and joined Umkhonto we sizwe (MK), the ANC's armed wing. In 1963 he was found with firearms and he was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in 1964 for African National Congress (ANC) activities and while on  Robben Island he completed high school and began university correspondence courses towards a bachelor's degree through the University of South Africa. In 1978 Fihla was released and was also banned for five years and confined to New Brighten township in Port Elizabeth, but the latter restriction was later relaxed so that he could find employment. In the 1980s, while working as an insurance salesman and then a sales and project manager for Metropolitan Life, Fihla continued to work underground for Mk and assisted in building street and area committees.

In 1983 he was detained and again for three years, beginning during the 1986 state of emergency. In 1990 after the unbanning of the ANC, Fihla became chairperson of the ANC in the Eastern Cape region and one of its key organizers. He was elected the first president of the Association of Ex-Political Prisoners in 1990, and to Parliament in 1994 where he became one of the longest-serving back-benchers. He was elected into office on 22 March 2013 as the Executive Mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. Prior to this, he was in the National Assembly where he served since 1994.


Email submitted to SAHO from Cingembo, dated 19 June 2013|Gail M. Gerhart, Teresa Barnes, Antony Bugg-Levine, Thomas Karis, Nimrod Mkele .From Protest to Challenge 4-Political Profiles (1882-1990) http://www.jacana.co.za/component/virtuemart/?keyword=from+protest+to+ch... (last accessed 21 November 2018)

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