Steve Tshwete

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For the local municipality, see Steve Tshwete Local Municipality.
Steve Vukhile Tshwete
Minister of Safety and Security
In office
17 June 1999 – 26 April 2002
Preceded by Sydney Mufamadi
Succeeded by Charles Nqakula
Minister of Sport and Recreation
In office
Preceded by New post
Succeeded by Ngconde Balfour
Personal details
Born Steve Vukhile Tshwete
(1938-11-12)12 November 1938
Springs, Gauteng
Died 26 April 2002(2002-04-26) (aged 63)
Pretoria, Gauteng
Nationality South African
Spouse(s) Pamela MaMzangwa
Children Lindela, Mayihlome and Yonda
Alma mater University of South Africa

Steve Vukhile Tshwete (born 12 November 1938[1] in Springs, Gauteng – died 26 April 2002 Pretoria, Gauteng) was a South African politician and activist with the African National Congress. Involved in the Umkhonto we Sizwe, Tshwete was imprisoned by the apartheid authorities on Robben Island from February 1964 to 1978. Tshwete resumed activities with the ANC and become a regional coordinator for the new United Democratic Front. He later lived in exile in Zambia with the ANC. After the first free elections in South Africa in 1994, he became the new government's first Sports Minister and later was Minister of Safety and Security.

Early life[edit]

Steve Tshwete was born in Springs, East Rand, on 12 November 1938 to Xhosa parents.[2] He was the eldest of four siblings. While still a baby his parents moved to Peelton (Nkonkqweni), a black township near King William’s Town, Eastern Cape.[3] He was taught to read by his mother before starting primary school.[4] His political interests were awakened reading the Xhosa newspaper Imvo Zabantsundu in his youth.[4] He attended Forbes Grant Secondary School in King William's Town and was introduced to the ANC through its publications given out the principal, Mr. H. Mjamba, and at Welsh High in East London he joined the ANC's African Students' Association.[4] When he left school he continued his work with the ANC.[4]

Political background[edit]

As a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Border regional command, he was arrested in June 1963 and sentenced in February 1964 to fifteen years in jail for belonging to a banned organization.[4] He spent his prison time on Robben Island and completed a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English and Philosophy from University of South Africa (UNISA). On Robben Island, with his interest in rugby, he organised the prisoners into rugby teams and created a league.[3] He was released in March 1978 and returned to his homeland and became a teacher.[4] By 1983, he became politically active again and joined the United Democratic Front (UDF) becoming the president of the Eastern Cape region.[4] He was arrested that year by the Ciskein police and held for four months and then constantly harassed until he left South Africa for the ANC in exile.[4] He was first in Maseru, Lesotho, and by 1985 he was in Lusaka, Zambia, resuming his military training with MK.[4][2]

He became a political commissar in MK in August 1987 and authorized the ANC military units in South Africa to attack white civilians by means of a bombing campaign of restaurants and nightclubs in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban.[2][5] The ANC National Executive Committee distanced themselves from the attacks in August 1988 after the attacks had been condemned by anti-apartheid leaders and church groups usually sympathetic to the ANC cause.[5] Tshwete was transferred from his position as a political commissar in MK and he obtained an appointment in the National Executive.[5] During the 1987, Tshwete was involved in the talks, in Dakar, Senegal and Paris, France when white businessmen, Afrikaner intellectuals and leading South African opposition members met the ANC for discussions.[6]

He returned to South Africa after the ANC was unbanned in 1990 as a member of their National Executive and negotiating team. After the ANC won the first free election in 1994, Nelson Mandela appointed him as his Minister of Sports, a position he held from 1994 until 1999.[2] He was tasked with overseeing South Africa's re-entry into international sport, establish development programs for underprivileged blacks sportsmen and women in all sports including rugby and cricket, and de-racializing the national sport teams.[2]

As the head of the ANC's Sports Desk he had the task of uniting sports that had been riven by apartheid. He had the knack of "bringing sworn enemies to the negotiating table and sending them away as allies ... he went from one sporting code to the next and fixed the potholes on their roads to unity".[7]:322 Having united South Africa's cricket bodies he travelled with Ali Bacher to London in May 1991 and successfully applied for South Africa's admission to the International Cricket Council.[7]:323-1 He started the first Governor's Cup Yacht Race from Cape Town to Saint Helena in 1996.[8]

On the retirement of Nelson Mandela, he served in Thabo Mbeki's first government as the Minister of Safety and Security from 1999 until his death in April 2002. He was tasked with restoring the morale of an undermanned, underpaid police force beset with a political history of maintaining apartheid, riddled with corruption and a huge escalation of violent crime in the country.[2]

On 24 April 2001, Tshwete, in his capacity of Minister of Safety and Security, announced, on national television, an investigation into an alleged plot to oust the country's president, Thabo Mbeki, by three high-ranking members of the ANC.[9] They were identified as Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa.[9] The opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, described the investigation as an abuse of government powers and a method to neutralize opponents as Mbeki sought a second term as president.[9] The three men were cleared in December 2001 when Tshwete announced the results of the investigation and apologised to the men and their families.[10]


Steve Tshwete Local Municipality in Mpumalanga Province is named after him.[11]


It is said he had developed back pain back in March 2002 and was confined to a wheelchair.[3] He was admitted to the Tshwane No 1 Military Hospital outside of Pretoria with pneumonia and liver failure which occurred after an operation for a spinal problem.[2] He was survived by his wife Pamela, sons Lindela, Mayihlome and daughter Yonda.[3] He honoured with a state funeral on 4 May 2002 and flags were flown at half-mast.[3][12]


  1. ^ "Home - Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)". Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Steve Tshwete". The Daily Telegraph. 2 May 2002. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Steve Tshwete". The Scotsman. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Who was Steve Vukile Tshwete?". Province of the Eactern Cape - Education. Retrieved 30 July 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c Battersby, John D. (21 August 1988). "A.N.C. ACTS TO HALT CIVILIAN ATTACKS". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 July 2016. 
  6. ^ Shaw, Gerald (6 May 2002). "Activist who forgave his interrogator". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 July 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Hartman, Rodney (2004). Ali: The Life of Ali Bacher. Johannesburg: Penguin. ISBN 978-0670047963. 
  8. ^ Governor's Cup at Saint Helena Island Info
  9. ^ a b c Swarns, Rachel L. (26 April 2001). "Three Businessmen Accused of Plot to Oust South African President". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  10. ^ Cauvin, Henri E. (5 December 2001). "South Africa: 3 Cleared Of Coup Accusation". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  11. ^ Steve Vukhile Tshwete biography at
  12. ^ "Oration at the Funeral of Minister Steve Tshwete" (PDF). University of South Africa. 4 May 2002. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 

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