Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Campaigner's Fight for Freedom Remembered

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Campaigner's Fight for Freedom Remembered

Article excerpt

Byline: SONIA SHARMA Reporter

AMOVING ceremony was held to celebrate the extraordinary life of a campaigner who fought against apartheid and racism.

Archie Sibeko, who once shared a cell with Nelson Mandela, was known, for his own safety, by different names including Zola Zembe and ZZ.

He was living in Tynemouth and died in March aged 90.

A special ceremony has now taken place at Tynemouth Sailing club where a number of speeches were given in his memory.

Among those who attended were his wife Joyce Leeson as well as family members who had travelled for 24 hours from South Africa, representatives from Backworth Croquet Club where he was an active member, Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell, Rita Stringfellow of Tynemouth Ward Labour Party, the Deputy High Commissioner for South Africa, and African National Congress (ANC) representatives.

Guests heard that Archie was one of the founding members of the South African Congress of Trade Unions and was arrested in 1956 with Mandela and 154 others in the notorious Treason Trials.

They were imprisoned for a year before charges were dismissed against 70 of them, including Archie.

He became a hero of the ANC Liberation Army and later travelled the world campaigning for trade unions to support the fight for freedom in South Africa.

He was the author of three books, dictated to his wife Joyce, and they helped set up a schools charity in his birthplace, the Tyume Valley in the Eastern Cape.

He retired in 1992 on health grounds - his doctor had warned him the incessant travelling and campaigning would kill him.

In 2005, he received from the South African government the Order of Luthuli in Silver - equivalent to a knighthood -- and in November last year he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law from Newcastle University.

Archie and Joyce came to Tynemouth from Manchester to be near her daughter Helen.

Joyce said: "At last he had a little time for a life of his own and as well as becoming a writer, he became an artist, a fell walker, a bird watcher, an allotment gardener, a trad jazz fan, active in local community and political organisations. …

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