Elmon Malele was born in Mapulaneng in the Limpopo Province (Transvaal) in 1920. Malele came to Johannesburg in 1943, and stayed in Alexandra township. He was one of the residents forcibly removed by the apartheid regime to Moroka Emergency Camp.

Malele joined the African National Congress (ANC) during the 1952 Defiance Campaign, as an ANC organiser in Soweto. In 1957, he moved to Mapetla, where he was arrested by government security forces. He was later put under house arrest and banned from attending any gatherings or meetings.On 5 December 1956, Malele was charged with treason and detained at the Fort, and released on £50 bail on 21 December 1956.  He was freed in January 1958, at the end of the preparatory examination.

In 1961, he was charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for taking part in the activities of the Communist Party of South Africa, or carrying out its interests.  His “crime” was that he was caught by two African Special Branch policemen carrying a parcel of leaflets issued by the CPSA, calling on people to strike at the end of May 1961. Malele was sentenced to two years imprisonment without the option of a fine.

On 20 January 1977, Malele died in detention. The police claimed he had hurt himself while trying to escape, but other sources said that he had a big gash on his head and was lying naked on the floor in a room at John Vorster Square Police Station in Johannesburg.  The police stated that Malele had fallen down and hit his head on a table after being interrogated from 9am to 3pm. He died a few days later in a nursing home, from a brain haemorrhage and hypertension.On Tuesday, 16 December 2008, Johannesburg’s Executive Mayor, Amos Masondo, officially renamed Mapetla Park as Elmon Malele Freedom Park in his honour. 

Mr Elmon Malele,aged 61,was detained in Soweto on 7 January 1977 in terms of section 6(1) of the Terrorism Act after a series of explosions occurred in a Klipspruit house. He was reported to have died in the Princess Nursing Home,Johannesburg,on 20 January after undergoing two brain operations by a neuro-surgeon.A post-mortem was held by state pathologist  before the Malele family could make arrangements to have a private pathologist present.The police reported that general Mike Geldenhuys,head of security police said that initial indications were that the detainee had suffered a stroke.

Police evidence during the inquest in July was that Mr Malele had been interrogated on 12 January from 9am to 3pm and that he had been kept standing the whole time .They claimed that Mr Malele had suddenly grimaced and groaned, then fainted and hit his head against a desk .He was immediately rushed to hospital.According to medical evidence Mr  Malele died 8 days later of hypertension and spontaneous haemorrhage. A state pathologist said that he had not found evidence of trauma as cause of brain haemorrhage.

In his affidavit to the inquest Dr D E Rosenberg, the neoro-surgeon called to attend Mr Malele, puncture wounds and abrasions were present on his scalp, which he estimated to be about 2 or 3 days old. Mr T J Taljaard, a state pathologist, said in a later affidavit that in his opinion the wounds could have been older than a week.The magistrate found that the death was not due to any act or omission by anyone,and that Mr Malele had died of hypertension and spontaneous intracerebral heamorrhage.


Behind Closed Doors. By Shireen Motala .South African Institute Race Relations.1987.

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