Victoria Mxenge: Challenged apartheid regime to uplift SA youth
In this episode of UnResolved, Karyn Maughan investigates the murder anti-apartheid legal activist Victoria Mxenge who refused to believe her husband Griffiths Mxenge was killed by the African National Congress. The apartheid regime later assassinated her in front of her children.
Widowed at the age of 39, Victoria Mxenge refused to let the death of her husband, Griffiths Mxenge, stop her from fighting for freedom, justice, peace and democracy in South Africa.
Mxenge used her law qualifications to fight against the ill-treatment of the youth in detention. She was also part of the defence team in the 1984 treason trial against leaders of the United Democratic Front (UDF).
Through her activism Mxenge tackled the apartheid regime, inspiring two young men who would become some of South Africa’s great legal practitioners, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and Senior Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane.
Zondo says Mxenge gave him a chance to serve his articles when no other law firm would.
I was the least with academic qualifications and I was given a huge responsibility to start a labour law department for the firm.Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo
The responsibility she gave to me said to me here is somebody who really believes in me and that went a long way for me even when she was no more. She put me on that path and she made a huge mark in my life.Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo
Victoria's husband, Griffiths Mxenge, was killed by askaris together with police officers selected by Vlakplaas death squad commander Dirk Coetzee.
She didn't want to be seen as a victim, I don't know why. I don't remember her complaining about how he (Griffiths Mxenge) was killed or complaining that now she was alone and this was heavy. She went on with the business, that for me was the mark of someone very committed.Senior advocate Muzi Sikhakhane
It seems to me the people who assassinated her husband thought they would intimidate other people, including her. They were quite mistaken.Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo
Her children, Namhla and Mbasa, talk about their mother's strength and resolve.
There are two occasions where I saw her in grief. The first time was when we went to the place where my dad was killed, that broke her. The second time was when there was an inquest.Mbasa Mxenge, Mxenge's son
I will forever be grateful that she wasn't willing to sit down in a corner and play dead. She rose up to be a mom and a dad to all of us.Namhla Mxenge, Mxenge's daughter
On 1 August 1985, four men attacked Mxenge in the driveway of her home in Umlazi, Durban and murdered her in front of her children. Her death sparked massive protests and clashes with the police left many injured.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) documents showed that an apartheid assassin confessed to killing Mxenge.
He claimed that he shot her five times in the chest and chopped her with an axe next to her dining room door.
She was a brave woman. I think it may have been understandable if, after the manner in which her husband had been killed, she thought that maybe she wouldn't be very active.Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo
But with the commitment that she had for the struggle for freedom, she wouldn't be deterred. The cause that she was fighting was too noble for her not to continue.Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo
Mxenge's death had a huge impact on many people and also the two young men who looked up to her.
I couldn't believe it, it was difficult to accept for a very long time. I was shocked, I didn't know how to look at her children.Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo
From that day for a lot of us that was the height of our politicisation, we saw the brutality and that angered a lot of people.Senior advocate Muzi Sikhakhane
The TRC records do not show if anyone ever applied or was granted amnesty for the killing of Victoria Mxenge.
I couldn't follow the TRC on TV because you had to face Dirk Coetzee and a couple of white Afrikaners but the fact that black activists had been turned ... I felt ashamed that many of our activists died at the hands of people they were trying to liberate.Senior advocate Muzi Sikhakhane
It is one thing to decide I am not going to be an activist as a black person but it's another when you decide to kill those who are fighting for you.Senior advocate Muzi Sikhakhane
It is very important for all us as we enjoy this freedom that we have to remember that there are people like Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge, and many others who sacrificed a lot for this freedom.Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo
We need to be alive to the fact that the freedom, the kind of country they sacrificed their lives for, is a country that seeks to make sure that everyone is treated with human dignity.Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo
A country that shows care for poor and vulnerable people, a country whose leaders show care for people and put the interests of the people above theirs. When we fail to lead our lives and do our jobs in a manner that reflects that, we are betraying them.Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo
Victoria was laid to rest next to her husband at Rayi Cemetery in the presence of 10,000 mourners.
Listen to the full podcast here:
#UnResolved investigates the murder of anti-apartheid activist Mxenge and how his killers were granted amnesty by the TRC.Read More
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