Born in Port Elizabeth, Stanley Mabizela joined the liberation struggle at an early age when he first joined the ANC Youth League. A son to a farm worker, Mabizela did his primary education in Port Elizabeth where he also became politicised. After passed Standard 6, he was sent by his father to Mariazel in the Transkei, near the border of Lesotho where he did form one and form two in one year. After completing form two, the priests at Mariazel expelled him when they discovered that he was an active ANC person. He completed his form three at Newell High School in Port Elizabeth attending a night school. It was here that Mabizela met Griffiths Mxenge another ANC political activist. Mabizela successfully passed his Junior Certificate (JC) at the school.
After completing his high school education in 1955 Mabizela had to work for two years as his family could afford to support him to further his education. During this period he carried political work as a member of the ANC YL. Then around 1957 he enrolled at the University of Fort Hare where he met several members of the ANC and ANC YL which further encouraged active his participation in political activities. In 1958, Ambrose Makiwane led a student march at Alice and Mabizela was amongst the students who took part in protest. In 1960 Mabizela became President of the ANC YL at the University of Fort Hare. At that time the ANC was operating underground as it was banned in April 1960 under the Unlawful Organisations Act. Mabizela did not complete his studies at the institution as he was expelled. During his interview with Danny Massey in April 1999 Mabizela reflected back to the event that led to his expulsion from the University of Fort Hare;
“And I was expelled. You know what happened. It was a very unfortunate thing. I was seeing Matanzima for the first time in my life when he arrived by a car [at the university], driven of course by a driver and surrounded by his security. I was very near him, very near him, because I wanted to see the man, wanted to see his face. And he had a son with us at Fort Hare at that time.... And then somebody from behind us, there were many of us, but I was in the front, somebody behind us said, ‘Nanzi le nja nyaghi uMatanzima.’ (Here is this dog, this sell-out, Kaiser Matanzima). Well, when the man was speaking behind me I could tell who it was. Because it was somebody I had known for a long time at Fort Hare. Not only at Fort Hare, the person who made that statement, was a chap called Mxenge, Griffiths Mxenge.”
Mabizela then enrolled at University of South Africa (UNISA), in Pretoria in 1961 to continue with his studies. After he was detained and released, he skipped the country and went to exile in Swaziland in 1965 where he joined other ANC and MK members like Joseph Nduli, Ablon ‘Bafana’ Duma and Albert Dhlomowho were were already based there. Mabizela then went military training in the Soviet Union before returning to work for the ANC in Southern Africa. As the ANC sought recruit more people for military training and consolidate its position in Swaziland particularly in the 1970s, Mabizela, Thabo Mbeki and Chris Hani among others played a leading role.
When Dhlomo, Mbeki and Jacob Zuma were arrested by the Swazi police, detained at Mbabane maximum security prison and nearly deported to South Africa in 1974, Mabizela, Moses Mabhida and Thomas Nkobi played an important role in negotiating their release. All the accused were subsequently deported to Mozambique. Mabizela also made his house in Swaziland available as a venue for a meeting of Mbeki and three student leaders of South African Student Organisation (SASO), Taole Mokoena, Leslie Gumede and Ralph in September 1975. At the time that Mabizela was based in Swaziland, he also worked as headmaster at Selasian High School.
In the early 1980s, following a shootout between Swaziland police and ANC guerrillas, Mabizela and the police commissioner were summoned by King Sobhuza to the Royal Kraal to negotiate improving relations. However, in 1982 Mabizela was forced to leave Swaziland following a secret agreement signed between King Sobhuza and South African government. He then served as the ANC’s Chief Representative in Tanzania and Zimbabwe in the late 80s. During this period, Mabizela also worked as the Deputy Head of the ANC Department of International Affairs. On 24 December 1989, sent by the ANC, Mabizela and Chris Hani addressed ANC community meetings at Dakawa and Mazimbu, Tanzania. During the meetings, Mabizela revealed the ANC NEC decision on the three groups of people detained by the ANC. The three groups were; (a) A group of self-confessed enemy agents who have been imprisoned and released unconditionally, (b) A group of enemy agents who had been imprisoned and released conditionally, (c) A group of 1984 mutineers who had been imprisoned by ANC.
After the collapse of apartheid and first democratic elections which brought the ANC to power, Mabizela was appointed as South Africa's first High Commissioner to Namibia. Mabizela died in Port Elizabeth on 8 April 2003.
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