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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Gwala, Harry Themba

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Gwala grew up in the Pietermaritzburg area. He obtained his teaching diploma and taught in Pietermaritzburg. In 1942 Gwala joined the South Africa Communist Party (SACP) and in 1944 he joined the ANC Youth League. He established the Rubber and Cable Workers Union in Howick and was consequently listed under the Suppression of Communism Act in 1952 and was served with a two-year banning order. He worked at the Edendale Hospital but was dismissed for recruiting hospital workers to become members of the South African Council of Trade Unions (SACTU). Gwala became active underground after the ANC was banned in 1960 until his arrest in 1964 for sabotage and for recruiting members for Umkontho we Sizwe. He was sent to Robben Island for eight years and released in 1972, but was restricted to Pietermaritzburg which meant that he could not pursue his teaching or trade union activities. However, Gwala did continue with his trade union activities and in 1976 he and other ANC stalwarts were arrested because of their involvement in a workers' strike. In 1977 he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. While he was in prison his wife, Elda, passed away, but he was not allowed to attend her funeral. In the 1980s motor neuron disease robbed him of the use of his arms, which led to his release from prison in 1988. After the ANC was unbanned in 1990, Gwala was elected the first Chairperson of the ANC in the Natal Midlands. In 1991 he was elected to the ANC National Executive and served until 1994. He was nominated to the SACP Central Committee in 1994, but was suspended in the same year. He remained a loyal SACP member until his death. After the April 1994 election, Gwala was nominated as a provincial member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, and also served as Chief ANC Whip.

Source: www.sahistory.org.za

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.