South Africa's New Leadership

Ebony, August 1994 | Go to article overview

South Africa's New Leadership


The old adage, "Politics makes strange bedfellows," has never been more true than in the case of South Africa's new leadership. In a show of almost eerie harmony, former mortal enemies have burried the hatchet and are now engaged in the brotherly pursuit of building a nation of unity. Who would have believed only a few months ago that Chief Buthelezi, whose Zulu followers had carried on a protracted, bloody war with Mandela's ANC activists, would sit with his archrival at the table of brotherhood? Or that former President de Klerk, the man who for years had persecuted Mandela and his family, would serve his former prisoner as deputy president?

The new-found harmony is reflected in President Mandela's 27-member cabinet, which is a testament to his commitment to racial and ethnic inclusiveness. However, not all members of South Africa's new leadership are government officials or, for that matter, particularly new. One of the country's most influential leaders during the freedom struggle, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is expected to continue wielding significant influence during the coming years of building a unified democratic state. Whether in or outside government, South Africa's new leaders will have their hands full trying to repair the damage inflicted by three centuries of brutal White minority rule. The men and women featured in these pages are among the key players on President Mandela's team.

Thabo Mbeki, 51

First Executive Deputy President

The eloquent, British-educated economist is widely regarded as President Mandela's heir-apparent. The son of the late Govan Mbeki, President Mandela's long-time fellow prisoner, Mbeki joined the militant ANC Youth League at age 14. In 1962, he left South Africa and moved to Britain where he played a prominent role in building the youth and student sections of the ANC in exile. In 1970, he went to the Soviet Union for military training before moving to Lusaka, Zambia, to serve as assistant secretary of the ANC Revolutionary Council. Since 1989, he has headed the ANC's Department of International Affairs, and was a key figure in the movement's negotiations with the South African government. Minister Mbeki's wife, Zanele, is a social worker.

W.F. de Klerk, 59

Second Executive Deputy President

Born into a family of South African political leaders, de Klerk received early training in politics through his membership in the youth section of the National Party. After holding a Aide variety of positions in the South African government, he became president in September 1989. Although an enthusiastic proponent of apartheid during his early political career, he was the first South African president who openly conceded that apartheid was unworkable and destroying the country.

Dr. Frene Noshir Ginwala

Speaker of Parliament

An eloquent lawyer and women's rights campaigner of Indian ancestry, Dr. Ginwala is the first woman and the first non-White person elected to the position of speaker of Parliament. Prior to becoming speaker, Dr. Ginwala headed the ANC Research Department and served on the ANC Commission on the Emancipation of Women. While living in exile from 1969 until 1991, she served as an ANC official in various countries in Africa and Europe.

Dr. Nkosazana Zuma, 45

Minister of Health

The new minister's highest priority is to implement President Mandela's plan of free medical care for pregnant mothers and children under the age of six. Like the president, a confirmed nonsmoker, Dr. Zuma has issued regulations requiring health warnings in cigarette advertising. In addition, she intends to push for a steep increase in the cigarette excise tax. A former AIDS researcher, she is a strong advocate of AIDS awareness programs and sex education. She also hopes to be able to help overturn her country's strict anti-abortion laws. Dr. Zuma is married and has four children. …

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