Robert Elias Mokxotho Matji was born on 22 August 1922 in Pretoria, Transvaal (now Gauteng). He later moved to the Eastern Cape, settling in Port Elizabeth, where he worked as a factory worker, and later became a bookkeeper in a general store in the New Brighton location of Port Elizabeth. He became an active trade union activist, and joined the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). One of the chief organizers of the Defiance Campaign in Port Elizabeth, he became the provincial secretary of the Cape ANC in 1952 working with leaders such as Dr James Zwelinzima Njongwe. In mid-1954 he was banned, forbidden to attend gatherings for two years, and ordered to resign from the ANC.

He escaped arrest for treason in 1956 by fleeing to Basutoland (now Lesotho), where he joined the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP). He was a member of the pre-independence Legislative Council but later left the BCP and joined the Marematlou Freedom Party. During his tenure in Lesotho, he continued to support the underground activities of the ANC, alongside his contemporaries such as the late Chris Hani, late Phyllis Naidoo, late Khalaki Sello and other activists who lived in Lesotho. During the run up to the first democratic elections in South Africa, he actively supported the ANC’s campaign in the Eastern Cape, working with his old comrades such as the late Govan Mbeki.Robert Mokxotho Matji passed away on the 27 April 1998, and was laid to rest in Maseru, Lesotho.

Robert Matji (second from the right). Next to him is Nelson Mandela.

Robert Matji, standing at the back on the right. Sitting in front of him is Mrs. Connie Njongwe. Seated on the far left is Dr James Zwelinzima Njongwe.


Gerhart G.M and Karis T. (ed)(1977). From Protest to challenge: A documentary History of African Politics in South Africa: 1882-1964, Vol.4 Political Profiles 1882 - 1964. Hoover Institution Pres: Stanford University.

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