Veteran Archie Sibeko. Picture: Supplied.

Cape Town - The African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape on Wednesday said it was mourning the death of “veteran” Archie Sibeko, a former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) commander and former deputy chairperson of the party in the province.

According to the ANC, Sibeko had not been in good health since he suffered minor stroke. He died peacefully at his home in London.

“The African National Congress in the Western Cape has learned with sadness the news of the passing of comrade Archie Sibeko, a recipient of the Order of Luthuli in Silver, former MK commander and former deputy chairperson of the ANC in the Western Cape,” said the party in a statement.

“Archibald Sibeko's contribution to the struggle for liberation, workers’ rights and a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa is without equal."

According to the statement, Sibeko was born on 3 March 1928 in Kwezana Village, near Alice in the Eastern Cape. He attended school at Lovedale, but moved to Cape Town where he became deeply involved in the trade union movement, alongside Oscar Mpetha and Ray Alexander Simons. 

He joined the South African Railway & Harbours Workers' Union (SARHWU) and became its secretary. In 1955, he was a founder member of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), the first non-racial trade union federation in South Africa. Sibeko also joined the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party in 1953 and was an accused in the Treason Trial in 1956. 

He was acquitted and permanently banned, but remained a champion in the struggle on all fronts – both for workers' rights as well as for political emancipation. 

"When the decision was taken to form Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), he was among the first to become involved in the Western Cape. He was arrested with the late Chris Hani in 1961, but before the finalisation of the trial, the Western Cape region instructed him and his comrades to go abroad for military training.

"He left behind his five young children and his expectant first wife, whom he never saw again, since she died a few years later. He travelled to Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania, before going to the Soviet Union and Cuba for military training in 1964. On his return to Tanzania, MK's first camp was opened in Tanzania at Kongwa, where Sibeko was a Camp Commander. He was later deployed to Western Europe. Sibeko vigorously mobilised the international trade union movement in support of the struggle against apartheid."

The ANC added that as the national treasurer and later the co-ordinator for Western Europe, he traveled widely in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and the former Socialist countries, winning millions of workers across the world in support of the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa. On returning to South Africa in 1990, Sibeko was elected honorary president of SARHWU and was elected deputy chairperson of the ANC in the Western Cape. 

Sibeko also worked in the first democratic election in 1994 at a voting station in Khayelitsha. 

The provincial ANC sent its ANC sent its condolences to his wife, Dr Joyce Leeson, and his children.

African News Agency/ANA