Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, President of South Africa
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma was born in 1942 in Inkandla, KwaZulu Natal to Gcinamazwi and Nokubhekisisa Zuma.
Forced by circumstance to educate himself – his father had died and his mother could not afford to pay for formal schooling – he established an informal school in his village.
Influenced by a trade unionist family member, he became involved in politics at an early age, joining the ANC in 1958. He became an active member of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, in 1962, following the banning of the ANC in 1960.
While on his way out of the country in 1963, he was arrested with a group of 52 recruits near Zeerust, and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, which he served on Robben Island. After his release, Zuma helped mobilise internal resistance and was instrumental in the re-establishment of ANC underground structures in the then Natal between 1974 and 1975.
He left South Africa in December 1975 and for the next 12 years was based in Southern Africa, first in Swaziland and then Mozambique. During this period he was involved in underground work with former President Thabo Mbeki and others, giving leadership to ANC structures operating inside South Africa.
He also dealt with the thousands of young exiles that poured out of South Africa in the wake of the Soweto uprising in June 1976. He became a member of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) in 1977. By the end of the 1980s he was head of the ANC Intelligence Department. He became widely known is this critical position at a time when the ANC had the difficult task of protecting the organisation from infiltration and to ensure its survival.
Following the unbanning of the ANC in February 1990, he was one of the first ANC leaders to return to South Africa to begin the process of negotiations with the then apartheid regime. Like other leaders involved in talks he had to convince the ANC membership and support base of the need to negotiate with an apartheid regime that was intent on maintaining its power and influence.
He was instrumental in organising the Groote-Schuur Minute between the De Klerk government and the ANC that reached important decisions about the return of exiles and the release of political prisoners.
His strategic thinking and conflict resolution skills played a pivotal role in ending conflict in KwaZulu Natal and the then PWV region, where state-sponsored violence was tearing communities apart.
In 1991, at the first ANC conference held in South Africa since 1959, he was elected Deputy Secretary General.
After the 1994 elections, Zuma requested to be deployed to KwaZulu Natal to work to cement peace between the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).
He joined the provincial government as MEC of Economic Affairs and Tourism. He played an instrumental role in normalising relations within the multiparty government of the ANC and IFP.
As MEC Zuma worked hard to develop the tourism industry in the province and was highly regarded by the sector. He created a good working relationship between business and labour, and worked tirelessly to facilitate new investments into the KwaZulu Natal economy.
In December 1994, he was elected ANC National Chairperson. An exception was made in the ANC Constitution to allow him to serve as both provincial chairperson and National Chairperson.
Zuma was elected ANC Deputy President in December 1997.
He served as Deputy President of South Africa from 1999 until June 2005.
During his tenure he distinguished himself in his role as mediator and facilitator of peace on the continent, especially in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
As Leader of Government Business, he worked to ensure good working relations between government and political parties in Parliament, and between Parliament and the Executive.
He kick-started the process of promoting positive values through the launch of the Moral Regeneration Movement.
In 1998 he established the Jacob Zuma RDP Educational Trust Fund. The fund has educated more than 20,000 children at primary school level to university. Beneficiaries are primarily from impoverished backgrounds in rural areas.
Zuma was elected ANC President in December 2007, becoming the ANC’s candidate for South African president in the 2009 elections.
President Zuma has three wives, Ms Sizakele Khumalo (MaKhumalo), Ms Nompumelelo Ntuli (MaNtuli) and Ms Tobeka Madiba (KaMadiba). He has 20 children.
He loves sports especially soccer and rugby and was a keen soccer player in his youth. He dabbled in ballroom dancing on Robben Island. South Africans know and love him for his prowess on the dance floor and his impeccable vocal chords.
Zuma has received several awards, including the Nelson Mandela Award for Outstanding Leadership in Washington DC, US (1998), and honorary doctorates from University of Fort Hare, University of Zululand, Medical University of Southern Africa, and University of the North (2001).
He was elected President of the Republic of South Africa on 6 May 2009. He was inaugurated at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 9 May 2009.
Kgalema Motlanthe, Former President of South Africa
Kgalema Motlanthe was born on 19 July 1949 in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, to a working class family. Most of his childhood was spent in Alexandra and much of his adult life was spent in Meadowlands, Soweto.
In the 1970s, while working for the Johannesburg City Council, he was recruited into Umkhonto we Sizwe. He formed part of a unit tasked with recruiting comrades for military training.
The unit was later instructed to transform its function from recruitment to sabotage. While some members of the unit left the country, he and Stan Nkosi remained in the country to establish such a machinery. Their unit was also involved in smuggling MK cadres in and out of the country via Swaziland.
On 14 April 1976 they were arrested for furthering the aims of the ANC and were kept in detention for 11 months at John Vorster Square in central Johannesburg.
In 1977 he was found guilty of three charges under Terrorism Act and sentenced to an effective 10 years imprisonment on Robben Island.
After his release in 1987, he was tasked with strengthening the union movement.
Motlanthe worked for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in charge of education. Among other things, he was involved in training workers to form shopsteward committees.
In 1992 he was elected NUM General Secretary.
He was instrumental in negotiating a deal for mineworkers under which their wage increases would be pegged to productivity at a time when the gold price was low, and the industry was closing marginal mines. This deal helped to avert massive retrenchments in the sector.
He was involved in the establishment of the Mineworkers Investment Company (MIC), which was wholly owned by the Mineworkers Investment Trust, with seed capital of R3 million. This has proven to be one of the best examples of effective economic empowerment in the country.
During his tenure, NUM established the JB Marks Education Trust, which provided bursaries to mineworkers and their dependants, and a resident trade union school called the Elijah Barayi Memorial Training Centre, located in Yeoville, Johannesburg. He was also involved in establishing the Mineworkers Development Agency, which focused on the developmental needs of ex-mineworkers, their dependants and communities.
While in NUM he served on the Miners’ International Federation, and was involved in exchange programmes with the United Mineworkers of Australia.
When the ANC was unbanned in 1990, he was put in charge of re-establishing the legal structures of the organisation in the PWV region and was elected its first chairperson. He often travelled around the country with Walter Sisulu visiting violence flashpoints.
He was elected unopposed as the Secretary General of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1997 and was re-elected in 2002. Among other things, his responsibilities included the development of party-to-party relations in the region, across the countries of the South, and around the world.
In December 2007 he was elected ANC Deputy President at its 52nd National Conference in Polokwane.
In July 2008 he was appointed Minister in The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa, and on 25 September 2008 was sworn in as South Africa’s third democratically elected President.
Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki, Former President of South Africa
Date of Birth: 18 June 1942
*Marital Status: Married
* President of the Republic of South Africa since 14 June 1999.
* President of the African National Congress (ANC) since 1997.
* Member of the Steering Committee of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
* Attended primary school at Idutywa and Butterworth and high school at Lovedale, Alice.
* Expelled from school as a result of student strikes (1959) and forced to continue studies at home.
* Sat for matriculation examinations at St John’s High School, Umtata (1959).
* Completed British A level examinations (1960 and 1961).
* Undertook first year economics degree as an external student with the University of London (1961 – 1962).
* Master of Economics degree, University of Sussex (1966).
* Joined African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) while a student at the Lovedale Institute (1956).
* Involved in underground activities in the Pretoria-Witwatersrand area after the African National Congress (ANC) was banned in 1960.
* Involved in mobilising the students and youth in support of the ANC call for a stay away in protest against the creation of a Republic (1961).
* Elected Secretary of the African Students’ Association (December 1961).
* Left South Africa together with other students on instructions of the ANC (1962). Went to the then Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, the then Tanganyika, now Tanzania and the United Kingdom (UK) to study.
* Continued with political activities as a university student in the UK, mobilising the international student community against apartheid.
* Worked for the ANC office in London (1967 – 1970). Underwent military training in the then Soviet Union during this period.
* Served as Assistant Secretary to the Revolutionary Council of the ANC in Lusaka (1971).
* Sent to Botswana (1973). He was among the first ANC leaders to have contact with exiled and visiting members of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). As a result of his contact and discussions with the BCM, some of the leading members of this organisation found their way into the ranks of the ANC.
* The focus of his activities during this time was to consolidate the underground structures of the ANC and to mobilise the people inside South Africa.
* Engaged the Botswana Government in discussions to open an ANC office in that country. Left Botswana in 1974.
* Sent to Swaziland as acting representative of the ANC. Part of his task was the internal mobilisation and the creation of underground structures.
* Became a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC (1975).
* Sent to Nigeria (December 1976) as a representative of the ANC. Played a major role in assisting students from South Africa to relocate in an unfamiliar environment.
* Left Nigeria and returned to Lusaka (February 1978).
* Political Secretary in the Office of the President of the ANC (1978).
* Director of the Department of Information and Publicity (1984 – 1989).
* Re-elected to the NEC (1985). Served as Director of Information and as Secretary for Presidential Affairs.
* Member of the ANC’s Political and Military Council.
* Member of the delegation that met the South African business community led by the Chairman of Anglo American, Gavin Relly, at Mfuwe, Zambia (1985).
* Led a delegation of the ANC to Dakar, Senegal, where talks were held with a delegation from the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (IDASA) (1987).
* Led the ANC delegation which held secret talks with the South African Government from 1989 and which led to agreements about the unbanning of the ANC and the release of political prisoners.
* Part of the delegation which engaged the National Party Government in talks about talks. He participated in the Groote Schuur and Pretoria deliberations, which resulted in the agreements which became known as the Groote Schuur and Pretoria Minutes (1990).
* Participated in all subsequent negotiations leading to the adoption of the interim Constitution for the new South Africa.
* Elected Chairperson of the ANC (1993). The election to this post meant succeeding the late former President and Chairperson of the ANC, Oliver R Tambo, with whom he had a close working relationship.
* Executive Deputy President in the South African Government (1994 – 13 June 1999).
* Chairperson of the African Union (July 2002 – July 2003).
* Honorary Doctorate from Rand Afrikaans University (17 September 1999).
* Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the Glasgow Caledonian University (19 May 2000).
* Newsmaker of the Year from Pretoria Press Club (22 August 2000).