President Cyril Ramaphosa has paid tribute to the late struggle stalwart Eric ‘Stalin’ Mtshali.

Mtshali passed away on Friday morning at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital after a short illness.

The 84-year-old former ANC Member of Parliament was admitted in September after suffering a stroke.

Presidency Spokesperson Khusela Diko says Mtshali received the National Order of Mendi for Bravery and for his excellent contribution to the fight against apartheid.

“Mr Mtshali played an immeasurable role in South African transition to democracy. He was in exile for over 30 years. He was part of the crew of liberation fighters. In the democratic South Africa, he served in Crime Intelligence in KwaZulu Natal and he served as a councillor in eThekwini, as well as a Member of Parliament.

“The President is very saddened by the loss of so outstanding activist. He has passed his sincere condolences to the family and wished for strength during this time,” says Diko.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to visit the family of the struggle stalwart‚ veteran communist and trade unionist Eric “Stalin” Mtshali.


Mtshali and the struggle

Mtshali joined the anti-apartheid movement after completing matric. He was a founding member of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union.

He was then recruited into the SACP by Marimuthu Naiker and Harry Gwala.

Mtshali said, “I did not join the SACP. I was organised into the SACP. I became a communist at a time when the party was underground.”

Mtshali also helped in the formation of ANC’s military wing Umkhonto Wesizwe.

“All of us were forced to work to adapt to illegal conditions. So we worked under illegal conditions which was not easy because amabunu were chasing after us. Though it was not bad at the beginning until the formation, until the decision to form the MK. Once that decision was taken, then it became bad because they wanted to know who are those people who wanted to take the country by force; who are they? Where are they going to get the arms? So it became a bit difficult but we managed underground conditions,” the stalwart recounted.

Mtshali was elected a member of the MK Natal underground command structure. He went into exile in 1962.

This is where many of his comrades in the MK perished.