Mpumelelo Washington Bongco
The Order of Mendi for Bravery in
Profile of Mpumelelo Washington Bongco
Mpumelelo Washington Bongco was a man who grasped aptly that skin colour can never be justification for the subjugation of one racial group by another. This strongly held belief saw Bongco join the African National Congress (ANC). His involvement in the liberation struggle brought him persistent abuse by state security agents, which eventually led to his execution by the State.
Bongco was the Eastern Cape regional commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) where he coordinated MK activities in the region and ensured that the branch carried out the instructions of the ANC leadership. During his time as commander of MK in the Eastern Cape, state security agents apprehended and detained him in March 1963.
During his detention, the notorious security police tortured him extensively in an attempt to extort information about the operations of his branch. Bongco was later released but soon rearrested for being in East London “illegally”. The state security forces brutally tortured Bongco while he was briefly detained for the somehow comical “offence” of being in South Africa “illegally”.
On 23 March 1964, Bongco was sentenced to death under the infamous “Sabotage Act” in the Queenstown Circuit Court in connection with a bomb attack. It is alleged that state security agents had requested Bongco to provide evidence that would incriminate the other detainees in exchange for his sentence being commuted.
However, Bongco refused and on 10 December 1964 he was executed. Although Bongco did not live to see the dawn of democracy in South Africa, his contribution means that his image will forever be carved in the memory of patriotic South Africans.