In the midst of the State of Emergency, the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) was formed in March 1987 at a secret meeting in Cape Town. Ephraim Nkwe was a member of its first executive committee.  

Ephraim Nkwe was the Head of Political Education of the Soweto Youth Congress (SYC) and the SAYCO. In March 1989, four activists, Nkwe, Mpho Lekgoro, Clive Radebe, and Job Sithole escaped from their guarded rooms in Johannesburg's Hillbrow Hospital where they were being treated for the after-effects of a hunger strike while in detention. They sought refuge at the West German Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, to protest against detention without trial. The four left the embassy after three days following the government’s promise that they were free and would not be detained.

 Nkwe was part of a SAYCO delegation that visited the African National Congress  (ANC) in exile when the SAYCO leadership secretly crossed the border to meet with the ANC in exile. He was also the Political Commissar of his underground uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) unit. In 1989, as defiance against the governments oppressive laws spread like wild fire, the government met it with yet further crackdown. A large number of the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) leadership was detained. Nevertheless, detentions did not stop the defiance. Banned organizations unbanned themselves. On 20 August 1989, SAYCO unbanned itself. Nkwe declared, "From this day, the sixth anniversary of the UDF, all restricted organizations will consider themselves to be free to operate and organize within their constituencies."

After the unbanning of the ANC, the ANCYL was re-launched in 1991.  Nkwe became the first head of Political Education of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL).

Ephraim Nkwe passed away on 5 May 2013. At the time of his death, Nkwe was the chairperson of the Mpete Mosaka ANC Branch in Pimville. 


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SAHA, UDF 25 Years from South African History Archive (SAHA), [online] Available at Accessed on 20 May 2013|

Mbalula F. (2013). Tribute to an intellectual giant and militant leader from The Sunday Independent, p.9, 19 May 2013

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