Moyisile Douglas Tyutyu was born in 1935* in KwaZakhele, Port Elizabeth, Transkei (now Eastern Cape Province). His interest in politics was sparked from a young age when he witnessed how Black people were being treated at the hands of the apartheid regime.

He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in the 1950s when he was just eighteen years old and started his activism during the Defiance Campaign, taking part in mass meetings held by the ANC in Korsten, Port Elizabeth. This would be the beginning of a life deeply entrenched in ANC work, which would result in numerous detentions.

In 1963, he became one of the first recruits of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK). In 1964, he was detained for 90 days with the authorities moving him from prison to prison, until he was found guilty of being a member of a banned organisation – the ANC. On 10 November 1964, he was handed a nine-year sentence. However, he appealed the sentence and it was subsequently reduced to seven years. He was transferred to Robben Island Prison on 5 January 1965 and became prisoner 87/65.

Upon his release, he (along with some of his comrades) was banished to various areas in the Eastern Cape. Finding work to support his family proved to be a challenge. However, in 1977, he was contacted by the late Phakamile Mphongoshe (Mavimbela) who asked him to set up MK structures in the Port Elizabeth area. Consequently, Tyutyu became in charge of co-ordinating the infiltration of MK units into the country as well as the departure of youth who wanted to join the organisation.

On 9 May 1983, he and ten others were detained under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act of 1967, which made it possible for people suspected of terrorist acts (broadly defined to include murder, military training, and the possession of arms, explosives or ammunition) to be arrested without a warrant and be detained for interrogation; detention could last anywhere between a few days and indefinitely.

The case was dubbed ‘Rufus Nzo and 10 others versus the State’. Tyutyu was sentenced to 25 years in prison and arrived on Robben Island on 16 December 1984. He remained in jail until he was granted indemnity by the then Justice Minister Kobie Coetzee (Coetzee had initially rejected his application but later approved it). Following his release in 1991, he joined other MK members who integrated into the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

In 2019, he was a recipient of the National Order of Luthuli in Silver, an award conferred on South Africans who have contributed to the fight for freedom, nation-building, the advancement of democracy and human rights, peace, justice and conflict resolution. Tyutyu was recognised for his unwavering fight for the equality of all South Africans.

A veteran of the struggle, Tyutyu continues to play an active role in the ANC. He currently serves as the Deputy Chairperson of the ANC Veteran’s League (ANCVL). He is also involved in the project on Robben Island concerned with locating the remains of former inmates on the island who died during the 1960s and were supposedly buried at Stikland Cemetery in Bellville, Cape Town.


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