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African National Congress Leader Weds In Prison

November 1, 1987 GMT

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ An African National Congress guerrilla leader serving a life jail sentence married his common-law wife Saturday in a ceremony inside Pollsmoor Prison.

Wilton Mkwayi, 74, who has been jailed since he was convicted in 1964 of sabotage, wore a dark suit, while the bride, 63-year-old Irene Mkwayi, wore a white dress and yellow hat.

″They weren’t nervous at all,″ said Mrs. Mkwayi’s sister, Mavis Ngwane, one of two witnesses at the wedding. She said the couple was allowed to kiss before and after the service.

There had been speculation that ANC leader Nelson Mandela, serving a life sentence in Pollsmoor, would be the best man, but he was not present at the ceremony, participants said.

The couple was married by proxy 20 years ago in a ceremony held without Mkwayi’s presence in the black homeland of Transkei. They wanted a Christian marriage service, and recently received permission from prison authorities.

The service was conducted by Anglican Bishop Patrick Matolengwe.

A group of journalists gathered outside the prison gates but they were ordered by police to move away. Mrs. Mkwayi’s son from a previous marriage, Sipho, arrived after his mother had entered the prison and was told he could not attend the service.

On Friday, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu blessed the rings that were exchanged by the Mkwayis.

Mkwayi and four other men were convicted in December 1964 of involvement in more than 50 acts of sabotage.

The government said Mkwayi became a leader of the ANC’s military wing following the arrest of Mandela and other senior ANC members at Rivonia, near Johannesburg, in 1963.

Mandela and seven co-defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment in June 1964.

Mkwayi is imprisoned on Robben Island, in Cape Town’s Table Bay, but he was transported to Pollsmoor for the wedding. After the service he was taken back to Robben Isalnd by motorboat, and Mrs. Mkwayi said she had been given permission to visit him on Sunday.

The ANC was outlawed by the South African government in 1960 and the next year began a campaign of sabotage and bombings aimed at ending domination by the white minority and the apartheid system .

By law and custom, apartheid establishes a racially segregated society in which the 26 million blacks have no vote in national affairs. The 5 million whites control the economy and maintain separate districts, schools and health services.