Patrick Mkhize-Chose To Heal Fractured Communities

The rise of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) and the formation of South African Students Organisation (SASO) raised the political consciousness of many students while others joined the wave of anti-Apartheid sentiment within the student community. When the language of Afrikaans was made compulsory as a medium of instruction in schools in 1974, black students began mobilising themselves on 16 June 1976.

On their way they were met by heavily armed police who fired teargas, and later live ammunition on demonstrating students. This resulted in a widespread revolt that turned into an uprising against the government. While the uprising began in Soweto, it spread across the country and carried on until the following year. Among these young political activists was Patrick Bayo Mkhize of the Morris Isaac High School. Thereafter, Mkhize was on the run from the security police. In 1978, in his attempt to evade arrest, he fled to Wentworth in Durban, and lived with his sister, Mathilde Beato.

While in Wentworth he joined forces with veteran BCM, members like; Basil Manning, Sats Mazibuko, Doctor Tyse, Steve Biko, Mthuli Shezi, Strinni Moodley, Jean Manning, Tsietsie Mashinini, Kgotlo Seatholo.

In their articulation of ideologies like Black Consciousness, they echoed the same sentiments as he did, and he fondly remembers them as his mentors. This is when he cut is proverbial political teeth as a fully fledged  political activist.

Sadly, while studying towards his LLB at UDW (University Of Durban Westville), his bursary was revoked because of his alleged involvement in some of the armed political attacks on the Apartheid Government.

Patrick Mkhize is a mature, assertive ‘daddy’ kind of person, if you will. He is motivated, ambitious, and a great leader, but he is  also practical, productive, and extremely dependable. He is married to the equally strong and beautifulThandie Mkhize.

In 1985 while in detention at Westville Prison as a political activist, he met fellow activist; Keith Joseph who was also detained without trial for the same reasons. It was then that he and Joseph formed a camaraderie, that is akin to brothers. As political detainees, they were in custody with hardcore criminals, including  the notorious ‘numbers gangs’

These were hard-core criminals who were trapped in a vicious circle of their own thinking. Mkhize and Joseph realised that cognitive treatment of offenders could show them a way out of that trap. They were aware that; with effort and practice, even the most serious offenders could learn to change their thinking about other people and themselves. One strategy they used besides attempting to politicise them, was convincing the inmates to surrender their weapons. Which they did, but, like in most cases the criminal justice system did  not present them that opportunity — not in a form that offenders recognise as genuine. The prison authorities felt offended by this intervention by the two comrades.

Most weapons were knives fashioned from broken light fixtures, pieces of outdoor fences, screwdrivers stolen from workshops and plastic handles of toothbrushes sharpened to a lethal point. 

Together with fellow activists; Patrick Williams, Edward Williams, Sophia Hoys, Maureen Manuel, Jerome  Schoenberg, Mkhize was in the forefront of the Auswent Civic Association themselves.

This team of diverse people have achieved great things. They are responsible for;The Building of  the Austerville community hall in 1991, the ‘sawfish’ project, the Jasper Place project, and the Collingwood Tennis Court project.

“I love Wentworth, and my comrades and I, Instead of anger against a system they say was rife with racism and class prejudice, we chose  to start the process of healing our fractured communities”; Mkhize chuckles.

By: Lorraine Richards

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