Magazine article African Business

Quiet Man of the Revolution

Magazine article African Business

Quiet Man of the Revolution

Article excerpt

Kgalema Motlanthe, South Africa's caretaker president, was born on 19 July 1949 in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, to a working-class family. Most of his childhood was spent in Alexandra and much of his adult life was spent in Meadowlands, Soweto.

In the 1970s, while working for the Johannesburg City Council, he was recruited into Umkhonto we Sizwe, (MK) the armed wing of the ANC. He formed part of a unit tasked with recruiting comrades for military training. The unit was later instructed to transform its function from recruitment to sabotage. While some members of the unit left the country, he and Stan Nkosi remained in the country to establish such a machinery. Their unit was also involved in smuggling MK cadres in and out of the country via Swaziland.

In 1976, they were arrested for furthering the aims of the ANC and were kept in detention for 11 months at John Vorster Square in central Johannesburg. In 1977, he was found guilty of three charges under the Terrorism Act and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on Robben Island. After his release in 1987, he was tasked with strengthening the union movement.

Motlanthe worked for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in charge of education. Among other things, he was involved in training workers to form shop steward committees. In 1992, he was elected NUM General Secretary.

He was a key negotiator in hammering out a better deal for mineworkers under which wage increases would be pegged to productivity at a time when the gold price was low, and the industry was closing marginal mines. …

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