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Phila Portia Ndwandwe (b.1964-d.1988, also known as Zandile or Zandi) was a fighter of the Natal cadre of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) formed by Muzi Ngwenya (Thami Zulu or “TZ”) operating from Swaziland. MK was the armed wing (Spear of the Nation) of the African National Congress, created by Nelson Mandela in 1961. Zandi was a breastfeeding mother when she was abducted by Apartheid forces and tortured for 10 days to convert her into becoming an informer for the South African government. She was shot in the head after being made to kneel in front of her captors.[1]

Kwazulu-Natal originsEdit

In 1985, 21 year old Zandi was a Dental Therapy student when she was recruited into the ANC and became an MK fighter. 3 years later, she was abducted in Swaziland by Durban Security Branch members at the Manzini Arms, a residence. She was an activist living in Durban who was under surveillance and arrested on terrorism charges before fleeing to exile in Swaziland. Hers was the first body dis-interred by the Truth and Reconciliation commission. During the TRC's hearing the Officer that confessed to being part of the group that shot her led Authorities to the place on the Elandkop farm where they had buried her.[2] On March 10, 1997 Ndwandwe's skeleton was unearthed in a field in KwaZulu-Natal and her 9-year-old son attended her state funeral with his grandparents and Nelson Mandela. She had been stripped and beaten repeatedly in an effort to 'turn' her but she steadfastly refused to talk. One of her captors described her refusal as "Brave, very brave." Having no prosecutable evidence against Zandi they decided to kill her and hide the body, covering it with lime and a plastic sheet.[3] Her father, Nason Ndwandwe had feared that she had become an 'askari'-- an accomplice or informer to the apartheid regime when she did not return with Nelson Mandela and the ANC in 1993, so he applied to the TRC for a formal inquiry. TRC investigator Stephanie Miller found evidence of a police 'hit squad' operating in Durban and brought pressure to bear on the members.[4] By 1997 those whom had applied for amnesty revealed to the commission the story of her abduction and subsequent murder. After her disappearance her family had been told that she had eloped to Tanzania.[5]

Memorials and AwardsEdit

In 2003 Ndwandwe received the Order of Mendi for Bravery in Silver for:

Demonstrating Bravery and valor and for sacrificing her life for her comrades in the cause for a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

There is a road named for her memory near Isipingo Rail and is located at Durban in eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Phila Ndwandwe Road is next to Umlazi and runs from the Isipingo Hills to Malaba Hills.[6][7]

Art that was dedicated to her homemade plastic panties, a floating blue plastic dress by artist Judith Mason titled "BLUE DRESS" is hanging in the Constitutional Court in the city of Johannesburg.[8]

Sister, a plastic bag may not be the whole armor of God, but you were wrestling with flesh and blood, and against powers, against the rulers of darkness, against spiritual wickedness in sordid places.

Partial text on hem of 'BLUE DRESS'[9][10]

See alsoEdit


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  2. ^ "The Liberation Movements from 1960 to 1990" (PDF). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report. Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Africa). 2: 333. The consequence in these cases, such as the Magoo's Bar and the Durban Esplanade bombings, were gross violations of human rights in that they resulted in injuries to and the deaths of civilians.
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  6. ^,30.1988256,8z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m3!8m2!3m1!1e1
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