Joe Mkhwanazi was born on 8 March 1928 in Mandlanzini at the Empangeni District in Natal (now KwaZulu Natal). After matriculating at Dumisa Secondary School, he enrolled at Adams College where he studied for a teacher’s diploma. After that he worked as a teacher between 1949 and 1963, and became the principal at Hlophekhulu Senior School.   

Mkhwanazi began his political activism in the African National Congress Youth League(ANCYL). When the Africanists within the ANC broke way to form the Pan Africanist Congress(PAC) in April 1959, he joined them and thus became a founding member of the PAC.  Following the Sharpeville Massacreand the banning of the both the PAC and ANC, Mkhwanazi left the country for exile in 1963. Upon arrival in Swaziland, he worked for Coca-Cola. While in exile he continued working for the PAC, serving as a vital link between the party inside the country and members in exile by facilitating the movement of PAC cadres to exile.

When PAC members were arrested in South Africa and charged in the infamous Bethal Trial, Mkhwanazi’s leading role in Anti-Apartheid activities while in Swaziland was exposed. The Apartheid government then put pressure on Swaziland to arrest Mkhwanazi. He was subsequently detained with other PAC members for six months. He was released and deported to the United Kingdom in 1978 where he sought political asylum.

 In 1982 he was deployed by the PAC to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where he served as the PAC’s Administrative Secretary under the leadership Potlako Leballo, and in the party’s national executive committee.  Later he became part of the PAC’s military commission, the body that oversaw activities of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA), the PAC’s armed wing. As the process of dismantling Apartheid gathered pace, Mkhwanazi served as part of the PAC’s team at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) multi party negotiations. 

After the first democratic elections in 1994, he served as the PAC’s only Member of Parliament in the KwaZulu Natal provincial legislature, and later became later become its councillor in eThekwini.

Joe Mkhwanazi passed away on 31 December 2012 in Johannesburg. 



SABC, (2012), ‘Former PAC Administrative Secretary Joe Mkhwanazi dies’, from the SABC, 31 December, [online] Available at[Accessed 03 January 2013]|

MaqhinaM, (2013), ‘PAC stalwart and former KZN MPL dies’, from the Witness, 03 January, [online] Available at  [Accessed 03 January 2013]  

Collections in the Archives