April 27, 2002

SOUTH AFRICA: Steve Tshwete died

South African Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete has died. President Thabo Mbeki has ordered that him be accorded an official funeral given to serving cabinet ministers and that the South African flag fly at half mast nationally from Saturday, April 27, until the evening of the funeral. Tshwete died at the Military 1 Hospital at 11pm Friday, April 26, where he was being treated for back pain since April 9. Mbeki said in a statement from Bloemfontein early in the morning of April 27, that South Africans had lost an outstanding leader and patriot in Tshwete. "This untimely death had robbed our country of an outstanding freedom fighter, an ANC leader, a cabinet minister and a committed leader in the reconstruction and development of our country." He described Tshwete as "a genuinely warm human being" who was among the first in the long line of ANC leaders "who reconciled with those who captured and eventually subjected them to imprisonment, torture and exile". "On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, we wish to express our profound condolences to the

family of Mr Tshwete."

Born to working class parents who valued education at Peelton outside King William's Town in 1938, Tshwete's political awareness coincided with the 1950s Treason Trial and he immersed himself in ANC work after leaving school. This was to lead to his arrest and a subsequent 15-year jail term on

Robben Island in 1963. On his release in 1978, Tshwete returned to political organising in the Eastern Cape and became United Democratic Front Border region president in 1983. Harassed by the security police and declared persona non grata in South Africa, Tshwete continued his work across the borders, first in Lesotho and then in Zambia. During this time he served in a number of ANC committees and was appointed Army Commissar of Umkhonto we Sizwe. He returned to South Africa in 1990 and was tasked with the work of ANC national organiser responsible for rebuilding the organisation's structures. He headed the ANC's sports desk and later became Minister of Sport and Recreation and was pivotal in the transformation of the South African sport. Tshwete was appointed Safety and Security Minister in 1999, dedicating himself to fighting crime and lawlessness, and to building safer communities. (MAIL & GUARDIAN)

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