Victoria Mxenge

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Victoria Mxenge
Victoria Mxenge.jpg
Born (1942-01-01)1 January 1942
King William's Town, Eastern Cape
Died 1 August 1985(1985-08-01) (aged 43)
Umlazi, Durban, Natal
Nationality South African
Occupation lawyer, nurse
Known for anti-apartheid activist

Victoria Nonyamezelo Mxenge, (1 January 1942, King William's Town, Eastern Cape - 1 August 1985 Umlazi, Durban, Natal) was a South African anti-apartheid activist; she was trained as a nurse and midwife, and later began practising law.[1]


Mxenge was born in Tamara Village on 1 January 1942 in King William's Town.[2] She trained as a nurse at Victoria Hospital and earned her qualifications in 1964. After she married Griffiths Mxenge, she and her husband moved to Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal).[2] She took midwifery at King Edward Hospital and worked as a community nurse in Umlazi.[2] In 1965, her husband was convicted under the Suppression of Communism Act and was imprisoned for two years on Robben Island.[3] During their marriage, her husband faced various government-sanctioned bans and detentions.[3] She and her husband had three children, two boys and a daughter.[4]

Mxenge earned her degree in law from UNISA in 1981 and was admitted as a lawyer that same year.[5] She became part of her husband's law practice in 1981.[6] She joined the Natal Organisation of Women (NOW), which was affiliated with the United Democratic Front (UDF).[5] Mxenge also joined the Release Nelson Mandela Committee.[7]

On 19 November 1981, her husband was brutally assassinated by Vlakplaas agents led by Dirk Coetzee in Umlazi township, south of Durban.[3] He had multiple stab wounds and his body was found near the soccer field in Umlazi.[3] It was claimed by police general Dirk Coetzee that her husband was murdered by the African National Congress (ANC) which she vigorously refuted.[4]

Mxenge kept their law practice going after his death.[2] She participated in the defence of students "against the confiscation of their results by the Department of Education" in 1983.[6] She intervened when young people were mistreated in detention.[2]

Mxenge was part of the defence team for the UDF and Natal Indian Congress during the Pietermaritzburg Treason Trial.[8] In July 1985, she spoke at the funeral of the Craddock Four, Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli.[2]

A few weeks later, she was "gunned down by four black men" as she returned from a political meeting on 1 August 1985.[9] She was killed on her driveway in Umlazi in front of her children.[7] The men were thought to be part of a government "death squad.".[9] After her death, more than a 1,000 students marched in Durban in protest and they were "dispersed by police using dogs and clubs."[9] Her funeral was attended by 10,000 people, and letters of condolence were received from Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo amongst others.[2] Her death also sparked riots in Durban.[10][11] In 1987, South African magistrates claimed that she had died from "head injuries and had been murdered by person unknown."[12] A Truth and Reconciliation Report shows that her murderers were recruited by the security branch.[12]


In October 2005 the South African Ministry of the Environment launched the third and last Lillian Ngoyi class environmental patrol vessels named Victoria Mxenge in her honor.[1] She was awarded the Order of Luthuli in Silver, along with her husband,[5] in 2006.[2]



  1. ^ a b "SA's marine protection vessels". SAinfo. 20 May 2005. Retrieved 4 December 2011. Victoria Mxenge and her husband Griffiths, both lawyers aligned to the ANC, were killed in Umlazi township in Durban, also by the apartheid government, in the 1980s.  mirror
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Victoria Nonyamezelo Mxenge". South African History Online. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Griffiths Mlungisi Mxenge". South African History Online. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  4. ^ a b Moseneke 2009, p. 9.
  5. ^ a b c "Mlungisi Griffiths Mxenge and Victoria Nonyamezelo". The Presidency of South Africa. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Jepson, Jake (9 August 1985). "Victoria Mxenge and the 'Act of Cowardice'". Mail & Gardian. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Moseneke 2009, p. 10.
  8. ^ Parks, Micahel (6 August 1985). "16 Dissidents Go on Trial for Treason in South Africa". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c Parks, Michael (3 August 1985). "Regime Cited in Slaying of Black Attorney". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  10. ^ Parks, Michael (12 August 1985). "Black Police Caught in Web of S. African Strife : Soldier Stoned to Death by Mourners After Rites for Lawyer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  11. ^ Cowell, Alan (12 August 1985). "Violence Erupts at Black's Rites in a 'Homeland'". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  12. ^ a b Moseneke 2009, p. 11.


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