Zanele Dlamini Mbeki
Zanele Dlamini Mbeki
|First Lady of South Africa|
14 June 1999 – 24 September 2008
|Preceded by||Graça Machel|
|Succeeded by||Mapula Motlanthe|
1938 (age 80–81)
Alexandra, Gauteng, South Africa
Thabo Mbeki (m. 1974)
|Alma mater||University of the Witwatersrand|
London School of Economics
Zanele Dlamini Mbeki is a feminist South African social worker, founder of Women's Development Bank. She is also a former first lady of South Africa.
Early life and education
After working for three years for Anglo American plc as a case worker in Zambia, Mbeki moved to London and completed a diploma in social policy and administration at the London School of Economics in 1968. She later won a scholarship to do her PhD on the position of African women under apartheid at Brandeis University in the United States, although she left the United States to marry Thabo Mbeki before completing it.
After her marriage, Mbeki worked for the International University Education Fund in Lusaka, Zambia. She resigned in 1980, shortly before it was closed down after the exposure of her boss, Craig Williamson, as a South African spy. She was also elected to the ANC's Women's League and edited the Voice of Women. Mbeki lectured at the University of Zambia for two years and then worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Nairobi.
When they returned to South Africa in 1990, Mbeki founded the Women's Development Bank, which offers microfinance to poor South African women. While her husband was campaigning, she rarely appeared with him and refused to grant interviews. When her husband became President in 1999, she became First Lady of South Africa. She is a feminist and an advocate for women's rights. In July 2003, she convened the South African Women in Dialogue, designed to enable women to participate fully in the country's development.
Mbeki met Thabo Mbeki while studying at the University of London and they were married in a registry office in London on 23 November 1974, followed by a religious ceremony at the home of her older sister Edith, Farnham Castle in Surrey. He had to receive permission from the ANC to marry and reportedly told Adelaide Tambo "if Papa [Oliver Tambo] doesn't allow me to marry Zanele, I'll never, ever marry again. And I'll never ask again. I love only one person and there is only one person I want to make my life with, and that is Zanele." The couple have no children and have often lived apart.
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