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Russell Maphanga

The Order of Mendi for Bravery in

Russell Maphanga Awarded for:
His leadership in times of difficulty and brave contribution to fighting for the rights of workers and liberation of the people of South Africa.
Profile of Russell Maphanga

Russell Maphanga was born in November 1939 in Umzinto on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast. As a young man he moved to Mkhumbane in Durban to search for employment. While there, Maphanga met and worked with many people who were politically inclined. In 1958 he became a member of the African National Congress (ANC) and dedicated his life to working towards a free and democratic South Africa.

In 1963, Maphanga went into exile to Zambia, Lusaka. He and his group were caught by the then South African Police’s Security Branch and brought back to serve a seven-year sentence, which started in Pretoria. He was transferred to Pietermaritzburg to continue serving the sentence. Upon his release, Maphanga went underground to continue his fight for liberation. In 1975 he and his comrades Harry Gwala, William Khanyile and Anton Xaba, were arrested once again. Maphanga and others stood trial with Griffith Mxenge as their attorney. Harry Gwala was the accused number one and he got a longer sentence. Maphanga was released and put under house arrest in 1979.

In 1985, Maphanga went into exile to Swaziland for a short while where he coordinated exiles that were sent back to South Africa to conduct underground missions. He moved to Lusaka in 1987 where he organised the ANC’s logistics. He was elected as a member of the National Executive Council of the South African Congress of Trade Unions. Maphanga travelled to Egypt and the Soviet Union for training in organisational skills.

Due to the stressful nature of his work, Maphanga had to spend time in a sanatorium in Italy to rest and recuperate.

Maphanga is retired and lives with his family in uMlazi, Durban.