Joe Modise

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Joe Modise
Joe Modise.jpg
Minister of Defence
In office
11 May 1994 – 17 June 1996
Preceded by Kobie Coetsee
Succeeded by Mosiuoa Lekota
Personal details
Born (1929-05-23)23 May 1929
Died 26 November 2001(2001-11-26) (aged 72)
Resting place Westpark Cemetery, Johannesburg
Nationality South African
Political party African National Congress
Spouse(s) Jackie Sedibe

Johannes "Joe" Modise (23 May 1929, Doornfontein - 26 November 2001) was a South African political figure. He helped to found Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress, and served as South Africa's first black Minister of Defence from 1994 to 1999.

As a truck driver from Alexandra, Gauteng, he became interested in the struggle against apartheid at an early age. He at first chose only non-violent means, being arrested with Nelson Mandela and 154 others and tried for treason. All were acquitted. In the 1960s, the South African government were using increasingly violent means to suppress anti-Apartheid activists, and Modise became a guerrilla fighter. He organized resistance groups and trained many other guerrilla fighters. Modise became the first Commander in Chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe ("MK") while Chris Hani deputised him as Chief of Staff.

By 1990, Modise and other representatives of the African National Congress met with the white government. When Mandela was elected President in 1994, he chose Modise as his Defense Minister. Modise was charged with integrating the many sections of guerrilla fighters into the new South African National Defence Force (SANDF).


In 1969 Chris Hani authored the 'Hani Memorandum' which was strongly critical of Modise's leadership of MK in exile.[1]

Controversy also arose during his term in cabinet when he was criticized for conflicts of interest in awarding lucrative arms contracts. His role in the alleged bribing of South African officials and politicians by European arms companies is still unclear. At present investigations are being carried out by German, British, and South African prosecutors into what is becoming an increasingly complex and far-reaching web of corruption. Prominent ANC members including Modise, his advisor Fana Hlongwane, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, and ANC President Jacob Zuma are among those believed to have benefited directly from the deals.[2]

Modise was awarded the Gold Grand Cross, South Africa's highest civilian honor. Modise died of cancer in Pretoria at the age of 72. He was buried at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He married Jackie Sedibe, former MK chief of communications and first SANDF female general.

Political offices
Preceded by
Kobie Coetsee
Minister of Defence (South Africa)
11 May 1994–17 June 1996
Succeeded by
Mosiuoa Lekota


External links[edit]