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Reggie Vandeyar

The Order of Mendi for Bravery in

Reggie Vandeyar Awarded for:
For his excellent contribution to the struggle against apartheid and striving for a free and democratic South Africa.
Profile of Reggie Vandeyar

Reggie Vandeyar was born on 15 July 1931 in Newclare, Johannesburg. His father was originally from India, who had come to South Africa to seek his fortune. His parents travelled throughout the then Transvaal, moving from Hammanskraal, Heidelberg, Vereeniging and finally settled down in Johannesburg. He went to school in Fordsburg where his family of nine members, of which he was the youngest, eventually settled down.

At 18, he was a fully fledged member of the Young Communist League and used to read a lot of Marxist and Congress literature. Vandeyar found work at the Ambassador Hotel as a porter. At work he politicised a number of Indian and African waiters who had grievances. Vandeyar joined the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) and participated in the Defiance Campaign of 1952. He was a delegate to the Congress of the People held on 25 and 26 June 1955 in Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was initiated in 1953 by the African National Congress (ANC); the South African Indian Congress; the South African Coloured People’s Organisation, and the South African Congress of Democrats, later known as the Congress Alliance. He worked during the whole length of the campaign.

They also held meetings at the Wolluter Hostel in Jeppe. Vandeyar recalls going with Thomas Nkobi, the former Treasurer-General of the ANC, to such meetings. In 1958, the Congress Alliance called for a national stay-away. TIC members Ameen Cajee, Ebrahim Moolla, Solly Esackjee and Vandeyar worked for a number of days preparing for the stay-away, called mainly because of the white elections. The stay-away was a success. He was also active in the 1959 Potato Boycott. For this campaign Vandeyar exposed the atrocious working conditions of African workers in Bethal.

Following the Sharpeville Massacre on 21 March 1960, the State of Emergency was declared and the ANC and other liberation movements were banned. This forced Congress Alliance activists to operate clandestinely. Vandeyar was among the first to agree to join the armed struggle and Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).

In 1963, his name appeared prominently together with that of Shirish Nanabhai and Indres Naidoo in the daily newspapers. They were the first three members of Indian origin to be arrested for MK-activities in the then Transvaal. They were sentenced to 10 years each and were transferred to Robben Island.