About the Subjects
Thabo Mbeki's parents were both teachers and activists. Believing that sooner or later they would be arrested, they decided that family and friends would also be responsible for bringing up their children and the young Thabo Mbeki therefore spent long periods away from home. At an early age he became involved in student politics and joined the ANC Youth League.
Upon completing his studies he moves to Johannesburg under the guidance of Walter Sisulu and Duma Nokwe. Under orders from the ANC he left South Africa in 1962 and came to Tanzania. He then moved to London where he worked at the London office with late Oliver Tambo and Yusuf Dadoo before being sent to the Soviet Union for military training.
The following years were spent travelling around Africa working for the ANC. Now based in Lusaka his office was instrumental in turning the international media against apartheid. From 1989 Mbeki headed the ANC Department of International Affairs, and was a key figure in the ANC's negotiations with the former government. Following the April 1994 general election he was handpicked by Nelson Mandela to be the first Deputy President of the new Government of National Unity. In 1997 Mbeki became president of the ANC and in June 1999 he was elected president of South Africa. A presidency in which he became known as a strong role model to other African leaders. However, the presidency of the ANC came to an end at the party's congress in December 2007 and in September of 2008 he is asked to step down as president of the country following a legal battle with the new ANC leader Jacob Zuma.
Kgalema Motlanthe was born on 19 July 1949 in Alexandra, Johannesburg, the son of a mine worker and garment worker Sophie Motlanthe. He attended the Anglican Missionary School and matriculated from Orlando High School in Soweto after his family was forcibly moved there in 1959. He was influenced by the Anglican church and served as an altar boy for many years. He even thought of becoming a priest. At school he was influenced by the ideologies of the Black Consciousness Movement and Steve Biko. While working for the Johannesburg City Council he was recruited for the ANC's military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe and was detained in 1976 for 11 months for furthering the aims of the ANC. He was again arrested in 1977 and sentenced to 10 years on Robben Island on charges of having "undergone training for sabotage, promoted ANC activities and received explosives for sabotage". In 1987 he was released and shortly after elected secretary-general of the National Union of Mineworkers. In January 1992 the Central Executive Committee elected him acting General Secretary and in 1997 he was elected Secretary-General of the ANC.
At the Polokwane conference in December of 2007, Motlanthe was elected Deputy President of the African National Party and became a member of Parliament in May 2008. In July he was appointed to the cabinet by Thabo Mbeki as Minister without Portfolio. On 25 September 2008 he became President of the Republic of South Africa after Thabo Mbeki resigned.
Jacob Zuma was born in Inkandla, KwaZulu-Natal Province. He was still very young when his father died so his mother worked as a domestic worker in Durban to provide for her family singlehandedly. By the age of 15 Zuma worked the odd job to supplement his mother's income and therefore didn't receive any formal schooling. Influenced by a trade unionist family member he became involved in politics at an early age and joined the ANC in 1959. In 1963 he was on his way out of the country when he was arrested and convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government. The next 10 years he spent at the prison on Robben Island. After his release he was instrumental in the re-establishment of ANC underground structures in KwaZulu-Natal between 1973 and 1975. In 1975 he left South Africa and spent the next 12 years in exile in Swaziland and Mozambique. Living in several African countries he continued to work for the ANC where he quickly moved up the ranks to become a member of the ANC National Executive Committee in 1977. He also served on the ANC's political and military council when it was formed in the mid-80s. When the ban on the ANC was lifted in February 1990 he was one of the first ANC leaders to return to South Africa to begin negotiations in which he played a vital role. He was elected Deputy President of the ANC at the National Conference held at Mafikeng in December 1997 and in June of 1999 he was appointed Executive Deputy President of South Africa. After being implicated in a number of court cases, all of which he has been cleared of, Zuma was elected president of the ANC at the National Conference at Polokwane in December 2007.
Jeremy Cronin grew up in a middle-class English speaking family. His father was a catholic but died when Jeremy was only 10 years old and the family then moved to Rondebosch near Cape Town. Here he went to a Marist brother's school, which had an early influence in terms of an interest in philosophy. A widower, his mother was providing for the family on the father's naval pension before she eventually went to work as an administrative clerk at the local hospital. Influenced by the catholic school he attended, young Jeremy once thought of becoming a catholic priest. He was also quite an intellectual at an early age and started writing poetry at the age of 15 alongside studying French outside of school. He then spent a year in the navy although he was conscripted and therefore did not fight in the border wars. Cronin started university in 1968 on a bursary, studying French, English and philosophy. He was introduced to politics through fellow philosophy student Bernard Holiday whim he'd known at the Marist brothers'. Holiday's brother was an underground SACP operative and so in 1968 Cronin was recruited into the underground SACP and began to do some work. It was around this time he first met Ronnie Kasrils. In the early 1970's Cronin went to France and after he came back to South Africa he began lecturing at UCT. At the same time he was involved in the propaganda unit, producing and distributing pamphlets, he also met David and Sue Rabkin. In July 1976 the three of them were arrested. During the trial, prosecution called on the judge to consider the death penalty, but eventually Cronin ended up being sentenced to seven years in prison. They ended up in prison in Pretoria where there was quite a bit of space, intellectually as well, amongst prisoners. He was released in 1983 at the age of 34. A few years later he borrowed someone's passport and went to London for a year, then to Lusaka where he worked with the ANC. In the early 1990's he came back to South Africa and was employed to help set up the legal SACP and stayed right through the 1990's. In July of 2002 a spat developed between Cronin and the ANC as he gave his views about the centralization of the party. It ended when he apologized unconditionally to the ANC's national executive committee in August of that year. He also got into another feud as he accused Zuma supporters of being unprincipled and inconsistent in their support of his trial.
MOSIUOA "Terror" LEKOTA
Mosiuoa "Terror" Lekota was born in Kroonstad on August 13, 1948. He was the eldest of seven children in a working-class family and did his schooling mainly in Kroonstad, but matriculated from St Francis College, Mariannhill, in 1969. Steve Biko had passed through this school just a few years earlier. In 1971 Lekota entered the University of the North where he became involved in SOSA. At the end of 1973 the organisation's leader had to flee the country and Lekota took his place. The following year the state stepped in and arrested him, charged him under the Terrorism Act and sentenced him to six years on Robben Island. He was released at the end of 1982. The years on the island with the leaders of the ANC moved him in a politically non-racial direction and he went on to become national publicity secretary of the newly established United Democratic Front. In 1985 however, he was detained and later sentenced in the Delmas Treason Trial. The Appeal Court reviewed the case and he was released again in 1989. In 1991 he was elected as the ANC's Chief of Intelligence and as the secretary of the organisation's election commission in 1992. After the first democratic elections were held in 1994, Lekota was elected as premier of the Free State Province. A position he held until 1996. He then served as the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces until 1999 when he was appointed Minister of Defence. He was also elected as National Chairperson of the ANC in December 1997 until 2007 where he was succeeded by Baleka Mbete. Lekota was one of ten ministers to submit their resignation after President Thabo Mbeki resigned in September 2008. In October he announced the creation of a new political party. His membership of the ANC was suspended on 14 October 2008.
Lekota's nickname "Terror" refers to his talents on the soccer field.
Kader Asmal was born on 8 October 1934 and grew up in Stanger; KwaZulu-Natal. While still a school boy he met Albert Luthuli who inspired him towards human rights. Asmal qualifies as a teacher in 1959 and moves to London where he enrols at London School of Economics and Political Science. In London he starts the British Anti-Apartheid Movement and later on the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement when he started as a teacher, then professor of human rights, labour and international law at the Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. A position he holds for 27 years. In 1983 he was awarded the Prix UNESCO for his involvement in the international enquiries into human rights violations. In 1990 he returns to South Africa and is shortly after elected to the African National Congress' National Executive Committee. He served as a member of the negotiating team of the ANC in 1993 and became Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry in 1994. After the general elections in 1999 he became Minister of Education and launches the South African History Project which aims to "promote and enhance the conditions and status of the learning and teaching of history in the South African schooling system, with the goal of restoring its material position and intellectual purchase in the classroom"
Ronnie Kasrils was born on 15 November 1938 in Yeoville, Johannesburg. The son of Rene (born Cohen) and Lithuanian immigrant Isidore Kasrils who came to South Africa as an infant in 1900. His father was a commercial traveller and a strong union supporter and member of the National Union of Commercial Travellers. After he left school. Kasrils developed extensive social contacts with blacks and felt that he had been able to avoid the constraints of the colour bar. He was extremely shocked by the Sharpeville shootings which convinced him to become politically involved and in 1961 he joined the banned South African Communist Party. He then worked in the film industry until 1962 when he was arrested. Upon the following trial he was fired from his job. In the following years he was active in the underground movement of MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe) and took part in a number of operations. In October of 1963 he was forced to go underground and had to leave the country later that year to undergo military training in the USSR. After that he went to London, then Angola where he lived in the ANC camps for three years, then Maputo. In 1991 he emerged to participate in the July 1991 conference of the ANC held in Durban and was elected to the NEC of the ANC with the seventh highest number of votes. After the 1994 elections Kasrils served as Deputy Minister of Defence until 1999. He was then elected to the cabinet where he served as Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry. He was appointed as the Minister of Intelligence Affairs in 2004. Following the rape case against Zuma in 2006 he was accused by the ANCYL of having a hand in the case as the accuser had consulted Kasrils, a family friend, shortly before making the accusations. Kasrils denied all claims and said he had never wanted to get involved in the case.
He resigned as Minister of Intelligence Services in 2008.
Sathyandranath Ragunanan Maharaj (better known as 'Mac') was born on 22 April 1935 in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal. His political activism started at the University of Natal where apartheid rules forced him to enrol at its Non-European section (UNNE). Here, in 1953, he became active in the student movement and was elected onto the Student's Representative Council as well as being involved in the Natal Indian Congress. After the law faculty at UNNE was closed down he left for England. It was here he became a founding member of the South African Freedom Association in 1958 as well as a founder of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain amongst various other movements. Furthermore, he became a member of the UK-based collective of the South African Communist Party.
After completing his military training he returned to South Africa in 1962 and operated underground until he was arrested in July of 1964. In a trial that became known as the "Mini Rivonia Trial" he was charged with five other people on 177 counts of sabotage. The following 12 years were spent on Robben Island where he was close to Mandela. Reports at the time described him as the "most tortured political detainee in South Africa". A year after his release in 1976 he escaped from the house arrest order that was imposed on him and went into exile. In 1988 he started operation Vul'indlela', more widely known as Operation Vula, in intelligence operation.
Upon the release of Nelson Mandela, he was part of the ANC negotiation team and served as a joint negotiation secretary to the multi-party talks that took place from 1991 to 1993, which brokered the agreements that took South Africa to its first democratic elections in 1994. On the 11th of May the same year he becomes the Minister of Transport in the first ANC government. A post he stepped down from in 1999.
The Schabir Shaik corruption case implicated Maharaj on allegations that he and his wife had received money from Mr Shaik. However, he has not been charged or convicted of any of these allegations.
Siphiwe Nyanda was born in Soweto in 1950. He joined the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC, where he worked as a field commander and was very active up through the 80's. He was appointed chief of staff in 1992 and served on the Transitional Executive Council which oversaw the change of government in 1994. When Umkhonto weSizwe was incorporated into the National Defence Force in 1994 Nyanda was transferred to the force. In 1994 he was appointed Chief of Defence Force Staff and from then on he served as General Officer Commanding Gauteng Command (1996-1997), Deputy Chief of the SANDF (1997-1998), and Chief of the SANDF (1998-2005).
At Polokwane he was elected as a NEC member of the ANC.
Andrew Feinstein was born in Cape Town on 16 March 1964, the son of Ralph Josef Feinstein and Erika Hammer. He graduated from Wynberg Boys' High School in 1981, then went on to study at Kings College in Cambridge, University of California at Berkeley and at the University of Cape Town. A member of the ANC, he started his political career when he served as an advisor to Jabu Moleketi, Gauteng's MEC of Finance from 1994 to 1996 and as an economic advisor to the province's premier Tokyo Sexwale. In 1997 he was elected as a member of the South African Parliament's lower house and at the time referred to as one of the most vocal and talented MP's.
Feinstein argued that a thorough investigation had to be done into the arms deal but when the ANC refused to do this he resigned. Feinstein currently lives in London where he works as a chair for Friends of the Treatment Action campaign, as well as lecturing and writing about South Africa. His memoirs After the Party is very critical of the political culture of the ANC and he is now considered an ANC dissident and critic.
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