Steve Vukile Tshwete
Who was Steve Vukile Tshwete?
Steve Tshwete was born in Springs on 12 November 1938. He spent his childhood in the village of Nkonkqweni (Peelton), and later in King William's Town and East London.
Tshwete's parents were workers, and they set great store by education. In the evenings, when Steve and his mother returned from tending the family mealie field or chopping wood, she taught him to write, so that he was quite adept at it even before he started school. But the family struggled to survive, and Steve, who was the eldest of four children, might have been forced to leave school early had he not won a bursary in Standard 6.
Tshwete's high school years coincided with the Treason Trial. The trial, which started with the arrest of 156 activists late in 1955 and dragged on until 1961, dominated the headlines of the day. Tshwete read the reports in Imvo Zabantsundu, and his political curiosity was aroused.
These interests matured at Forbes Grant Secondary School in King William's Town, which Tshwete entered in 1957. Here he was introduced to ANC literature by the principal, H Mjamba, who did much to shape his political outlook.
At East London's Welsh High, which he attended in 1960 and 1961, he joined the African Students' Association and began to show the organisational abilities for which he would later be so highly regarded. He also helped to found the East London Youth Club, and became its general secretary. The club was a cover for recruitment into the ANC's underground structures.
Tshwete left school and immersed himself in ANC work as secretary of Border regional command of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). In June 1963 he was arrested. In February of the following year he was tried, found guilty of belonging to a banned organisation and sentenced to 15 years on Robben Island.
He came off the island in March 1978, armed with a BA from Unisa (with majors in English and Philosophy). He returned to his beloved home territory, found work as a teacher and was soon politically active again.
In 1983 he picked up where he had left off 20 years earlier and became president of the Border region of the UDF. The same year he was detained by the Ciskei government and held at Mdantsane Police Station for four months.
Harassed by the security police and declared Persona Non Grata by then Minister of Home Affairs FW de Klerk, Tshwete decided to continue the fight from beyond the borders.
After a spell in Maseru, he moved to Zambia in 1985. Over the following years his political and military work took him all over the world. During this time he served as secretary of the 75th Anniversary Committee and as a member of the Politico-Military Council (PMC) secretariat, and was appointed as the Army Commissar of MK.
He was co-opted onto the ANC National Executive Committee in 1988 and formed part of the ANC delegation to the Groote Schuur talks in 1990.
He returned to the country permanently on the instructions of the NEC in May 1990 to assume the work of the National Organiser and chairperson of the National Organising Committee.
As head of the ANC's Sports Desk, Tshwete played a pivotal role in facilitating the deracialisation and normalisation of South African sport. He served in South Africa's first democratic government as Minister of Sport and Recreation. He served as Minister of Safety and Security since the 1999 elections.
Steve Tshwete passed away on the night of Friday, 26 April 2002.