Sindiso Mfenyana 2022


Struggle stalwart and ANC veteran, Sindiso Mfenyana was born on 12 March 1940, in Bolotwa, Eastern Cape, and spent his early years in Dophu, near Lady Frere. At the age of five, his family moved to East London, where he began his primary school education.

By 1953, he had passed his primary education with flying colours and was sent to St John’s College in Mthatha. He excelled at St John’s and, by 1957, was the only matriculant at the school to obtain a first class pass with exemption. During his high school career, his passion for politics began and he regularly attended ANC Youth League (ANCYL) meetings. In matric, he was elected as ANCYL Secretary at St John’s.

In 1957, he enrolled for a BSc at Fort Hare University on a scholarship from the Mthatha Bunga (council of tribal chiefs). 

In December of 1960, Sindiso received an invitation to join the armed resistance that was brewing within the ANCYL. With his father’s blessing, he boarded the train from his home in Noupoort and headed for Johannesburg.

During his time in Johannesburg Sindiso learned about the workings and political motivations of the ANC. He also contributed to the struggle by helping to organise the All-in Africa Conference in 1961, where Nelson Mandela was the keynote speaker. The real reason for being in Johannesburg, however, was to prepare him for exile. On 5 January 1962,  Sindiso and his cohort left for military training in the Soviet Union. After his training, he was selected to further his MSc Economic Studies at Kiev Economics Institute in the USSR (now Ukraine). 

During his time in the USSR, Sindiso met Rita, a graduate in Aeronautical Engineering, whom he married in June 1963 in Kiev. In August 1967, Sindiso graduated from KINE and was posted by the ANC to Hungary, where he remained for three years, working for the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY).

In August 1970, he departed with his family for Cairo to take up the position of ANC representative in Egypt. He was also elected leader of the Afro Asian People’s Solidarity Organization during this time.  Following his tireless work in Cairo, Sindiso was transferred to the ANC headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1974. He joined the office of the Secretary General of the ANC and became one of the producers of Radio Freedom, the Voice of the African National Congress and the people’s Army uMkhonto Wesizwe. During this time, he also lectured at the Natural Resource Development College in Lusaka.  

In 1985, Sindiso was appointed Secretary to then ANC President Oliver Tambo, until he was deployed to the German Democratic Republic (GDR), where he acted as chief representative of the organisation.

In December 1990, as the ANC and Apartheid government began to discuss a peaceful transition of power, Sindiso was called upon, in his capacity as a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), to attend talks in Johannesburg. It was the first time he was able to return home in 28 years. 

He was awarded the Military Veterans Decoration in gold in 1991 for completing 30 years of unbroken service as a committed member of Mkhonto Wesizwe.

In 1992, Sindiso commenced Civil Service training, first at the British Civil Service College in London, and subsequently the US Civil Service College in Pennsylvania.

Just before South Africa’s first democratic elections, in March 1994, Sindiso was appointed Under Secretary to the National Assembly and moved to Cape Town. In June 1997, Sindiso was the first Black person to ever be appointed Full Secretary to Parliament in South Africa.

On leaving Parliament, he served as the South African Ambassador in Tanzania from 2004 until his retirement in 2010. After his retirement, he became the member of the ANC Integrity Commission.  Whilst in Tanzania, he received an award for meritorious service from the South African Legislatures Secretaries Association. In 2013, he was awarded Batho Pele Life Achiever of the Year, which recognises public servants who are selfless, dedicated, committed and who go the extra mile in servicing citizens.

In 2017, Sindiso wrote his autobiography “Walking with Giants”, launched by Nelson Mandela University’s Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy (CANRAD) in April 2018. 

For his life-long struggle for South Africa’s liberation, his vocality on anti-corruption, patronage and his firm belief in constitutional democracy, it is an honour for Nelson Mandela University to confer the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) on Sindiso Mfenyana.