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Matthews Meyiwa Road Formerly First Avenue and Stamford Hill Road

Trade unionist, ANC activist and Robben Island veteran, Matthews Makholeka Meyiwa played a prominent role in the civic life of Mpumalanga, in eThekwini’s Outer West. Meyiwa was born on 24 August 1924, in Georgedale, near Hammarsdale.

His parents, George and Anne, were peasant farmers and this boy was the last of eight children born to the Meyiwa household. He attended Georgedale Primary School and Memorial Salvation School, and did his secondary level education at Mpolweni Mission, before progressing to Adams College. It was there that he met Ikosi Chief Albert Luthuli, a teacher at the college, who was later to become the great ANC leader and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Rubbing shoulders with such a luminary, Meyiwa became involved in politics himself. He was unable to finish his junior certificate because of financial difficulties, so found work as a clerk at Alcan Aluminium, in Pietermaritzburg.

Meyiwa got involved in the trade union movement and this led to him joining the ANC in 1949 and later the South African Communist Party, along with leaders such as Moses Mabhida and Harry Gwala.

Meyiwa was politically active throughout the 1950s and in 1963 was arrested as an operative of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe. He spent eight years in jail on Robben Island, with now President Jacob Zuma, and other struggle heroes. Meyiwa was released in 1972, and resumed his political activities, working to reactivate the ANC’s underground structures and recruiting young men and women and ensuring their safe passage into exile.

He also became involved in social development projects in Mpumalanga Township and was elected president of the Mpumalanga Family and Child Welfare Society. A campaign against crime initiated by Meyiwa proved so successful that the area became free of crime.

In 1975 he was again arrested for his political activities and sentenced to life imprisonment. When the National Party started negotiations with the ANC, he and many political activists were released from Robben Island, in 1991. Meyiwa resumed his work for the ANC, this time wooing traditional leaders to join the progressive movement.

In 1996 he was elected deputy mayor of the Outer West and in 1999 became the mayor of the Outer West Local Council. When the local councils merged to form the Metro Council, he became a councillor. Meyiwa fell ill and died in 2002. He was survived by his wife Sylvia Meyiwa (MaZondi), who he had married in 1949, and their seven children – Goodwill, Barbara, Percy, Wiseman, Humphrey, Busisiwe and Nana, who were all trained teachers. Sylvia and the couple’s eldest son died in 2005.

dlaminis@durban.gov.za