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Eastern Cape launches Dr Raymond Mhlaba centenary celebrations

Feb 11, 2020
Eastern Cape launches Dr Raymond Mhlaba centenary celebrations

Fort Beaufort - Premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, will officially launch the centenary year of Dr Raymond Mhlaba, kwaNondyola Location, Fort Beaufort, on Wednesday.

Dr. Raymond Mhlaba, affectionately known as Oom Ray, was born at Mazoka Village in Fort Beaufort on the 12th February 1920. Dr Mhlaba became an anti-apartheid activist when he moved to Port Elizabeth in search of employment.

"He was about 17 years old and worked in a laundry, engineering practice and a law firm," said Andile Nduna, Spokesperson for Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture.

"He became a leader in the trade union movement. He then joined both the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the African National Congress (ANC).

"As Volunteer – in – Chief, in the ANC, he kicked started the nationwide Defiance Campaign in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth. This earned him a nickname, 'Vulindlela', (Open the way).

"After the ANC, was banned on the 8th April 1960, Dr Mhlaba took up the armed struggle, co-founding its military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, (MK). He was deployed to China for military training."

Nduna said that before leaving, he co-wrote the MK Constitution, and in 1962, he became its second Commander-in-Chief.

"He was arrested together with other members of MK High Command in Rivonia, Johannesburg in 1963 and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Through it all, we was supported by fellow activist, Dideka Heliso."

In 1986, Oom Ray and Ma Dixie (as Dideka Heliso, as affectionately known as), got married in whilst in prison, both aged 66 and 61, respectively.

Nduna added that after his release in 1989, Oom Ray was appointed the inaugural Premier of the Eastern Cape in 1994 with Ma Dixie as the First Lady. In 1997, he was commissioned to Rwanda as a First Commissioner and later established the first South African Embassy there.

"He also served as ambassador to Uganda, until shortly before his death in Port Elizabeth on the 20th February 2005, he was the SACP’ National Chairperson.

"This year, 2020, had Oom Ray been alive, he would have been 100 years," he added.

"As part of the launch, Hon Premier will outline the year-long commemorative programme of Government in advancing the legacy of Oom Ray."

The event happened as follows:

Date: 12 February 2020

Time: 10h00

Venue: Boundary Hill Primary School, KwaNondyola Location, Fort Beaufort

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