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Alexander Moumbaris (France)

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Alexander Moumbaris (France) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the struggle for liberation. His dedication and brave sacrifice for a just course is a remarkable testimony of solidarity to the oppressed people of South Africa.
Profile of Alexander Moumbaris (France)

Alexander Moumbaris was born in Egypt to Greek parents. It was in England that his political life began. Firstly as a member of the British Communist Party, later he became a member of the South African Communist Party. He is an Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) veteran who has been awarded, the same as his wife Marie José, the Sabotage Campaign Medal in 2012. He is one of the group of internationalists known as the London Recruits. These were dozens of comrades, of British and other nationalities, recruited in London for secret missions to South Africa.

Moumbaris was fully involved in the preparation of landings on the East Coast of South Africa. He reconnoitred the East Coast from Kosi Bay to East London in the course of his trips. On the third occasion a sea-landing of 19 MK fully-armed members was to occur, Moumbaris was the commander of the receiving group. When this operation failed because the ship known as “Avventura” broke down, Moumbaris and his wife were called in to receive several groups of MK comrades and help them cross the borders of Swaziland and Botswana.

After having accompanied two groups across the Swaziland border, they went to Botswana to meet two more groups. That is when they were arrested on the border coming in from Botswana.

His wife was in prison for about four months and then freed on the grounds that she was expecting a child, and freed also through the intervention of the French Government. Moumbaris was charged under the Terrorism Act in January 1973. He was found guilty under the Terrorism Act of conspiring with the ANC to instigate violent revolution in South Africa, by distributing ANC pamphlets in Durban in 1967 and 1968, reconnoitring the Transkei to find places for seaborne landings and assisting ‘terrorists” to enter the country. He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment in June 1973, which he would serve in the Pretoria Local Prison. In 1979 Moumbaris, Tim Jenkin and Stephen Lee escaped from prison.

They got out of the maximum security jail, the European section of the Pretoria Local Prison, by collectively working together on an escape plan. This finally involved opening 10 grills and doors and coming out from the main entrance. To do this they had to undergo six or seven operations, of getting out of their cells and progressing by opening one grill one after the other and each time returning to lock themselves back into their cells.

Two of the men Stephen Lee and Tim Jenkin had hidden R200 each in their body. Lee went on his way while Moumbaris and Jenkin took the train, hitched and paid for their transport and altogether walked 80 km to cross the Swaziland border. There, they were met by the High Command of MK, including President Jacob Zuma, in Maputo.

They were officially presented by OR Tambo at a press conference in Lusaka on the 8th of January 1980. On his return to France he organised the opening of the ANC office. He also assisted the struggle in various ways, including recruiting comrades for missions in South Africa for MK.