PRETORIA – South African politician Zola Skweyiya has passed away on Wednesday morning. He was 75-year-old and he died while in hospital after a short illness.
Skweyiya served as Minister of Public Service and Administration in former president Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet and then as Minister of Social Development during Thabo Mbeki’s administration.
The well-known politician stayed on, despite Mbeki’s recall and subsequent resignation, when then-acting president Kgalema Motlanthe took office.
According to the ANC press statement, Zola Skweyiya passed on just a few days before his birthday on 14 April, when he would have turned 76 years of age.
He was born in 1942 in Simonstown, Cape Town to Winnie Skweyiya. He did his schooling in Port Elizabeth and Retreat, Cape Town, finally matriculating at Loveday College, Alice in 1960. An activist since high school and at Fort Hare, he joined the ANC in 1956, and organised until he went into exile in 1963, to Tanzania and later Lusaka, Zambia.The ANC sent cde Cde Zola Skweyiya to the German Democratic Republic to study law, and in 1978 he obtained an LLD degree from the University of Leipzig. He worked for the ANC in various offices and capacities and was responsible for setting up the ANC office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Between 1982 and 1985 he represented the ANC at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), before he was recalled to Lusaka to set up the ANC Legal and Constitutional Department there. He headed this department until 1990 in Zambia, and again until 1994 in Johannesburg, after his return to South Africa in 1990. On his return, he also chaired the ANC Constitution Committee. He served on the National Executive Committee of the ANC until 2012.
Cde Zola played a critical role in the constitutional negotiations, not only in the CODESA process and committees, but also in engaging with ANC structures, the legal fraternity and other Alliance and civil society formations on the process. From 1984-1993, he also represented the ANC at the UN Commission for Human Rights. He contributed to the founding of the Centre for Development Studies and the South African Legal Defence Fund, both at the University of the Western Cape. He felt strongly about the resolution of the historical injustice, and an advocate for the policy of affirmative action.
He became a member of Parliament in 1994 and immediately assumed the position of Minister of Public service and administration. In 1999 he was appointed as Minister of Social Development, a post he held for the next ten years until 2009. In social development, he spearheaded the implementation of our social protection system, including the child grants and the formation of the South African Social Security Agency. He was passionate about the protection of the elderly, and held numerous outreach and engagement with older South Africans across the country.
In 2009, he was appointed as High Commissioner of South Africa to the UK and Ireland, where he advanced the interest of South Africa and Africa. On his return, he remained active in veterans structures, an outspoken advocate for the renewal and restoration of the integrity and values of the movement, he served all his life.
RIP to our Comrade and Leader, Cdr Zola Sikhweyiya. He contributed to the social security net which caters for millions of our people, setting up the pillars of our public service.
A fighter and a revolutionary – South Africa has lost an experienced soldier pic.twitter.com/wfltYenHoz
— ANC Elections Head ( Chief ) (@MbalulaFikile) April 11, 2018
Very, very sad about the news of the passing away of Zola Skweyiya. Such a decent, honest, totally commited comrade who always maintained the highest levels of revolutionary morality and discipline. Condolences to the family. Another great man has departed.
— Derek Hanekom (@Derek_Hanekom) April 11, 2018
Death has robbed us of another fearless warrior of our struggle for liberation and a principled cambatant of @MYANC. Cde Zola Skweyiya is no more! We have truly lost a champion of our democracy and freedom. Our profound condolences to his family #RIPZolaSkweyiya pic.twitter.com/UxZxEGbwmX
— Zama Mvulane ®️ (@zmvulane) April 11, 2018