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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Director of UN Women
In office
13 August 2013 – 19 August 2021
Secretary General
Preceded byMichelle Bachelet
Succeeded bySima Sami Bahous
4th Deputy President of South Africa
In office
22 June 2005 – 23 September 2008
PresidentThabo Mbeki
Preceded byJacob Zuma
Succeeded byBaleka Mbete
Minister of Minerals and Energy
In office
17 June 1999 – 21 June 2005
PresidentNelson Mandela
Thabo Mbeki
Preceded byPenuell Maduna
Succeeded byLindiwe Hendricks
Acting Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
In office
3 February 2004 – 30 April 2004
PresidentThabo Mbeki
Succeeded byBen Ngubane
Member of the National Assembly of South Africa
In office
27 April 1994 – September 2008
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byAndries Nel
Deputy Provincial Chairperson of the African National Congress in Western Cape
In office
April 1994 – 1996
ChairpersonChris Nissen
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byNomaindia Mfeketo
Additional offices
Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg
Assumed office
September 2022
Vice-ChancellorTshilidzi Marwala
Preceded byNjabulo Ndebele
Chancellor of the Tshwane University of Technology
In office
7 November 2007 – 10 June 2015
Succeeded byGwen Ramokgopa
Personal details
Phumzile Mhlambo

(1955-11-03) 3 November 1955 (age 68)
Clermont, KwaZulu-Natal, Union of South Africa
Political partyAfrican National Congress (1994–2009, 2009–present)
Other political
Congress of the People (until 2009)
SpouseBulelani Ngcuka
Alma mater
  • Politician
  • diplomat
  • educator
  • consultant
  • businesswoman
  • human rights activist

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (Zulu pronunciation: [pʰumziːle m̩lamboᵑǀʱuːkʼa] ; born 3 November 1955)[1][2] is a South African politician and former United Nations official, who served as the Executive Director of UN Women with the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Mlambo-Ngcuka served as Deputy President of South Africa from 2004 to 2008, as the first woman to hold the position and at that point the highest ranking woman in the history of South Africa. During her period as deputy president of South Africa, she oversaw programmes to combat poverty and ensure the poor benefit from the advantages of a growing economy.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Mlambo-Ngcuka obtained a bachelor's degree in social science and education from the National University of Lesotho in 1980, as well as a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Cape Town in 2003, which dealt with educational planning and policy.[4] In 2013 she completed a doctorate from the University of Warwick.[4] The work covered using mobile technologies to support Teacher Development in resource poor nations. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2014.[5]

Youth development[edit]

From 1981 to 1983 Mlambo-Ngcuka taught in KwaZulu-Natal, after which she moved to Geneva to work with the World Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) from 1984 to 1989,[4] as the organisation's Youth Director, where she advocated for job creation for young people within the UN system and promoted development education in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Mlambo-Ngcuka was the first president of the Natal Organisation of Women.[6] During this time she also founded and directed the Young Women's International Programme.

From 1987 to 1989 Mlambo-Ngcuka was director of TEAM, a developmental Non-Government Organisation (NGO) in Cape Town, as well as being involved with squatter women and African independent churches to promote economic self-reliance and running skills training programmes.[7] From 1990 to 1992 she was director of World University Service, a funding agency, as well as being involved in the management of funds donated to development organisations by Swedish and Swiss government development agencies. She started and managed her own management consulting company, Phumelela Services, during 1993 and 1994.[4]

Throughout her career, Mlambo-Ngcuka directed her energy towards issues of human rights, gender and youth development, equality and social justice.[8]

Career in national politics[edit]

Member of Parliament[edit]

In 1994 Mlambo-Ngcuka became a Member of Parliament, chairing the Public Service Portfolio Committee. She was deputy minister in the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) from 1996 until 1999, during which time she also was a founding member of the Guguletu Community Development Corporation. From 1997 she served as member of the national executive committee of the African National Congress (ANC), as well as being the provincial vice-chairperson of the ANC Western Cape.[citation needed]

Mlambo-Ngcuka was Minister of Minerals and Energy from June 1999 to June 2005. During this time she was a driving force behind the government's policy of creating New Order Mining Rights which ended a period where big mining firms which controlled nearly all South Africa's minerals reserves, were able to hold mining rights to them in perpetuity. Mlambo-Ngcuka's policy of 'use it or lose it' created a situation where mining rights became available to a much broader segment of the population including many previously disadvantaged black people. She served as acting Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology from February 2004 to April 2004.[1]

She led the Southern African Development Community mission to observe the 2005 Zimbabwe parliamentary election, which congratulated "the people of Zimbabwe for holding a peaceful, credible and well-mannered election which reflects the will of the people."[citation needed]


During Mlambo-Ngcuka's tenure as Minister of Minerals and Energy, the parastatal company PetroSA made an advance payment of ZAR15 million (approx. $1.5 million) to a private company Imvume, which in turn made a ZAR11 million donation to the ANC ahead of the 2004 elections. It is alleged that Imvume has close links to the ANC. These events have been dubbed the "Oilgate" scandal by South African media.

Although there was never any evidence that Mlambo-Ngcuka was involved in any way, media reports cast suspicion on her behaviour. In order to clear her name, Mlambo-Ngcuka asked South Africa's Public Protector to investigate the issue. The subsequent report cleared her completely. Because Mlambo-Ngcuka's brother Bonga Mlambo was involved with Imvume on a planned hotel project at the time, he was at first alleged to have been involved in Imvume's oil business. These allegations also proved to be groundless.[9]

Deputy President[edit]

Then South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka giving a speech at Tsinghua University's School of Public Policy and Management on Sino-South African relations in 2007.

On 22 June 2005, President Thabo Mbeki appointed her as deputy president of South Africa, after he relieved Jacob Zuma of the post the week before. Mlambo-Ngcuka's husband, Bulelani Ngcuka, was head of South Africa's National Directorate of Public Prosecutions at the time and charged with fighting organised crime. It was the NDPP which had determined that criminal charges should be brought against Zuma. It is Zuma's position that the charges against him are politically motivated. Soon after her appointment she was booed by Zuma supporters at a rally in KwaZulu-Natal, an incident that was not covered by the public broadcaster, the SABC, which led to accusations of bias.[10] In August 2005, commenting on the slow pace of the Willing Buyer Willing Seller land reform program in South Africa, she stated that South Africa could learn about land reform from Zimbabwe. This comment caused alarm and was condemned by the parliamentary opposition.[11]

In December 2007, she lost her position on the ANC's National Executive Committee after party delegates elected a pro-Zuma slate.[12]

President Mbeki resigned in September 2008 after the National Executive Committee, objecting to Mbeki's alleged role in Jacob Zuma's prosecution for criminal activities, decided to recall him. On 23 September, in the wake of this, most of the South African cabinet resigned, Mlambo-Ngcuka among them.[13]

Mlambo-Ngcuka joined COPE in late February 2009, but shortly after rejoined the ANC.[14]

Executive Director of UN Women[edit]

On 10 July 2013, Mlambo-Ngcuka was appointed as Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women) by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She was sworn into Executive Director of UN Women on 19 August 2013. She succeeds Michelle Bachelet.[15]

Under Mlambo-Ngcuka's leadership, UN Women worked with Publicis and Ogilvy on launching the HeForShe campaign.[16] In November 2017 Mlambo-Ngcuka welcomed the Elsie Initiative to help increase women's participation in peacekeeping operations in a joint statement with fellow UN Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten.[17]

In addition to her role at UN Women, Mlambo-Ngcuka also served a two-year term as member of the World Bank Group's (WBG) Advisory Council on Gender and Development from 2015 until 2017.[18] In November 2018, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres appointed her to the United Nations' Task Force on Digital Financing of Sustainable Development Goals, co-chaired by Maria Ramos and Achim Steiner.[19]

She was awarded Cannes LionHeart Award in 2019 for her work for UN Women and Unstereotype Alliance.[20]

Mlambo-Ngcuka left UN Women in August 2021 after serving two terms.[21][22]

Mlambo-Ngcuka has successfully mobilized 40 billion USD in financial commitments from Member States, private sector, philanthropies and civil society as well as young people. These commitments have formed Generational Equality to drive transformative change for women and girls worldwide.[23]

List of Publications

  • Progress towards gender parity still slow, uneven- Interview: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka[24]
  • The United Nation at 70 and the ongoing quest for gender equality[25]
  • Becoming UN Women: A journey in realizing rights and gaining global recognition[26]
  • Sexual Health and Women's Rights[27]
  • Mobile learning facilitated ICT teacher development : innovation report[28]
  • Rural women: the invisible mainstay of sustainability
  • UN Women bids farewell to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka[29]

Other activities[edit]

Mlambo-Ngcuka presenting at a Time's Up event on sexual harassment at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

In late 2022, Mlambo-Ngcuka acted as one of the mediators for peace negotiations between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), in order to end the Tigray War.[36][37] On 2 November 2022, a peace treaty was signed in Pretoria between Ethiopia and the TPLF, which formally ended the war on 3 November.[38][39][40]

Personal life[edit]

Mlambo-Ngcuka is married to the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Bulelani Ngcuka. They have five children, four of whom were adopted.


  1. ^ a b "Profile".Archived 7 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine, South African Government Information.
  2. ^ "SA history: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka". sahistory.org. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  3. ^ "Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka". live.worldbank.org/experts/phumzile-mlambo-ngcuka.
  4. ^ a b c d "cv" (PDF). www.unwomen.org. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  5. ^ NMMU. "NMMU doctorate recipients 2014". Retrieved 25 October 2015.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "The Daily Impact: UN Women Taps Former South African Leader". Impact. 11 July 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Ramaphosa opens up to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka". Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka". Women Deliver. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  9. ^ "Media Statement from the Office of the Public Protector of the Republic of South Africa, Adv Mabedle Lawrence Mushwana". Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  10. ^ Mofokeng, Moffet (19 August 2006). "How a lone cameraman 'dented' SABC's credibility". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2006.
  11. ^ Sapa (10 August 2005). "SA could learn from Zim, says Mlambo-Ngcuka". IOL. Archived from the original on 14 November 2006. Retrieved 12 October 2006.
  12. ^ Boyle, Brendan (21 December 2007). "Winnie Mandela tops ANC election list". The Times (South Africa).Archived 2 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Confusion rattles markets". Sapa (IOL). 23 September 2008.
  14. ^ "Phumzile, Macozoma defect to Cope". Mail & Guardian. 1 March 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  15. ^ "Secretary-General appoints Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN-Women)". Press release. United Nations. 10 July 2013.
  16. ^ Elliott, Stuart (7 March 2014). "U.N. Women's Rights Group Seeks Men's Support". New York Times.
  17. ^ "Joint Statement by Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka and Pramila Patten on the launch of the Elsie Initiative". UN Women. 16 November 2017.
  18. ^ "World Bank Advisory Council on Gender and Development: 2015–2017 Members". World Bank Group.
  19. ^ "Task Force on Digital Financing of Sustainable Development Goals (press release)". United Nations. 29 November 2018.
  20. ^ "Cannes Lions 2022". Cannes Lions. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  21. ^ "Remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the closing of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women". UN Women – Headquarters. 27 March 2021. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  22. ^ "UN Women bids farewell to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka". UN Women – Headquarters. 19 August 2021. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  23. ^ "Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka". Women Deliver. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  24. ^ Mlambo-Ngcuka, Phumzile (30 April 2016). "Progress towards gender parity still slow, uneven - Interview: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women". Africa Renewal. 29 (1): 10–11. doi:10.18356/ae63590d-en.
  25. ^ Mlambo-Ngcuka, Phumzile (16 December 2015). "The United Nations at 70 and the ongoing quest for gender equality". UN Chronicle. 52 (2): 33–35. doi:10.18356/cee60976-en.
  26. ^ Becoming UN Women : A journey in realizing rights and gaining global recognition. Routledge. 6 July 2017. doi:10.4324/9781315270777-10. ISBN 978-1-315-27077-7.
  27. ^ Mlambo-Ngcuka, Phumzile (2017). "Sexual Health and Women's Rights". Harvard International Review. 38 (3): 48–53. ISSN 0739-1854. JSTOR 26528683.
  28. ^ Mlambo-Ngcuka, Phumzile (2013). Mobile learning facilitated ICT teacher development : innovation report (PhD thesis). University of Warwick.
  29. ^ "UN Women bids farewell to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka". UN Women. 19 August 2021. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  30. ^ "Leadership]". Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
  31. ^ "Board". Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.
  32. ^ "Members of the International Jury". Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa Global Award for Women's Empowerment.
  33. ^ "Global Advisory Council". African Leadership Academy (ALA).
  34. ^ "Members". International Gender Champions (IGC).
  35. ^ "Board of Trustees". Mandela Rhodes Foundation.
  36. ^ "Ethiopia peace talks enter day two in South Africa". France 24. 26 October 2022.
  37. ^ "Peace talks aimed at ending Ethiopia's deadly Tigray conflict begin in South Africa". CBC News. AP. 25 October 2022. Archived from the original on 27 October 2022.
  38. ^ Winning, Alexander; Cocks, Tim (2 November 2022). "Parties in Ethiopia conflict agree to cease hostilities". Reuters.
  39. ^ "Ethiopia's gov't and Tigrayan forces agree to end two-year war". Al Jazeera. 2 November 2022.
  40. ^ "AU announces peace deal in Ethiopia's Tigray conflict". Deutsche Welle. 2 November 2022.

External links[edit]

Media related to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by Deputy President of South Africa
Succeeded by