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- Alex Moumbaris
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Dates of existence
Alexandre (Alex) Moumbaris, born in Egypt to Greek parents, began his political life in England as a member of the British Communist Party and later the South African Communist Party. He also joined Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), and together with his wife Marie-José became part of what is now known as the internationalist underground group ‘London Recruits’, for which they received the South African National Order “Sabotage Campaign Medal” in 2012.
Alex and Marie-José Moumbaris were arrested on the 19 July 1972 while trying to cross the border from Botswana to South Africa during an MK operation, together with other members of MK. They were secretly detained for 4 months, before ‘Alexandre Moumbaris and 5 Others’ were charged under the Terrorism Act in January 1973. Marie-José, who was pregnant at the time with their first child, had been released through international pressure and deported to France in September 1972. Alex Moumbaris was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment on the 20 June 1973, which he started serving in the Pretoria Local Prison.
On the 11 December 1979 Alex Moumbaris and two other prisoners, Tim Jenkin and Stephen Lee, made a daring escape from Pretoria Central Prison. After a dangerous and exhausting journey they eventually arrived in Lusaka, where they were received by OR Tambo, and for the first time appeared publicly about their escape during a press conference on the 14 January 1980. He then joined his wife Marie-José and their son Boris in Paris. Their daughter Chloé was born on the 11 December 1982, the third anniversary of his escape from prison.
Alex Moumbaris continued his political work as part of the French national and the wider international South African liberation movement, as a communist, internationalist and humanist. The Government of the Republic of South Africa awarded him with the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in Silver in 2014, which is awarded “to those who have actively promoted the interests and aspirations of South Africa through outstanding cooperation, solidarity and support”.