Zola Skweyiya

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Zola Sidney Themba Skweyiya
Zola Skweyiya.jpg
South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
In office
September 2009 – February 2014
PresidentJacob Zuma
Preceded byLindiwe Mabuza
Succeeded byObed Mlaba
Minister of Social Development
In office
PresidentNelson Mandela
Succeeded byEdna Molewa
Minister of Public Service and Administration
In office
Succeeded byGeraldine Fraser-Moleketi
Personal details
Born(1942-04-14)14 April 1942
Simon's Town, South Africa
Died11 April 2018(2018-04-11) (aged 75)
Pretoria, South Africa
Political partyAfrican National Congress

Zola Sidney Themba Skweyiya (14 April 1942 – 11 April 2018) was a South African politician who was Minister of Public Service and Administration from 1994 to 1999 and Minister of Social Development from 1999 to 2009. Skweyiya was re-elected to the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress in 2007.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Simon's Town, Western Cape in 1942. He is the young brother of Thembile Skweyiya. He completed high school in Alice at the Lovedale College.[1]:19 His political activity began then when he involved himself in protest against changes to Bantu Education.[1]:19 After high school he attended Fort Hare University and became active with the ANC.[1]:19 When the ANC declared the beginnings of the armed struggle in 1961, he became part of its armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).[1]:19 He left South Africa in 1963, joining the ANC in exile in Tanzania and Zambia.[1]:19 He furthered his education in East Germany from 1969 where he studied law and obtained a PHD ten years later.[1]:19


Until 1985, he was the ANC's representative at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) before being recalled to Lusaka to set up the ANC's Legal and Constitutional Department.[1]:19 In 1986, he was deputy chair of the ANC's constitutional committee with members such as Jack Simons, Kader Asmal and Albie Sachs.[1]:19 This committee would develop the ANC constitutional guidelines that would eventually be used after the ANC's unbanning in 1990, during negotiations that would lead to the first elections in which citizens of all races voted in 1994 and a South African Constitution.[1]:19 During 1986 until 1988 he attempted to investigate the conditions of detention of ANC members by the ANC security wing of the Department of National Intelligence and Security.[1]:19


Since his return from exile in 1990, he has directed the Department of Legal and Constitutional Affairs. He has helped to set up the Centre for Development Studies and the South African Legal Defence Fund, both at the University of the Western Cape.[1]:19 Skweyiya also served on the board of trustees of the National Commission for the Rights of Children. He was also elected as president of UNESCO's Management of Social Transformations.

Skweyiya was first elected to Parliament in 1994, and he joined the Cabinet as Minister of Public Service and Administration in the same year. He was moved to the position of Minister of Social Development under President Thabo Mbeki in 1999. After 15 years in the Cabinet and Parliament, his retirement from both was announced on 6 May 2009, following the April 2009 general election. As a result, he was not sworn in for the new parliamentary term. He did not leave politics altogether, however; he remained a member of the ANC National Executive Committee[2] and on 7 May 2009 the party announced that he would have a new post working at the ANC Presidency. According to ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe, Skweyiya voluntarily chose to leave parliamentary politics, "contrary to current speculative and surreptitious commentary". He praised Skweyiya's "immense skill and expertise" and said that the ANC still wanted to make use of his abilities.[3]

He was appointed by President Jacob Zuma as the South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in September 2009.[4]


Skweyiya died at a Pretoria hospital on 11 April 2018 at the age of 75.[5] He leaves behind his second wife, Thuthukile and two stepchildren, and a son from his first marriage.[1]:19


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Barron, Chris (15 April 2018). "Zola Skweyiya, principled engineer of mass welfare and bill of rights 1942-2018". Sunday Times (South Africa).
  2. ^ "Skweyiya set to retire", Sapa (IOL), 6 May 2009.
  3. ^ "Skweyiya deployed to ANC Presidency", Sapa (IOL), 7 May 2009.
  4. ^ "High Commissioner Profile". southafricahouseuk.com.
  5. ^ "ANC Veteran Zola Skweyiya Dies at 75". EWN. 11 April 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.

External links[edit]