Kgalema Motlanthe

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His Excellency
Kgalema Motlanthe
Kgalema Motlanthe, 2009 World Economic Forum on Africa-1.jpg
Motlanthe at the World Economic Forum in June 2009
3rd President of South Africa
In office
25 September 2008 – 9 May 2009
Deputy Baleka Mbete
Preceded by Thabo Mbeki
Succeeded by Jacob Zuma
Deputy President of South Africa
In office
9 May 2009 – 26 May 2014
President Jacob Zuma
Preceded by Baleka Mbete
Succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa
Deputy President of the African National Congress
In office
18 December 2007 – 18 December 2012
Preceded by Jacob Zuma
Succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa
Secretary-General of the African National Congress
In office
Preceded by Cyril Ramaphosa
Succeeded by Gwede Mantashe
Personal details
Born Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe
(1949-07-19) 19 July 1949 (age 72)
Boksburg, Transvaal Province, Union of South Africa
Nationality South African
Political party African National Congress
Spouse(s) Mapula Motlanthe (1976–2010)
Gugu Mtshali (2014-)
Children Kagiso
Religion Anglicanism

Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe (Northern Sotho pronunciation: [ˈkxɑ.lɪ.mɑ mʊ.ˈtɬʼɑ.n.tʰɛ];[1] born 19 July 1949) is a South African politician who served as President of South Africa between 25 September 2008 and 9 May 2009, following the resignation of Thabo Mbeki.[2]

After the end of his presidency, Motlanthe was appointed as the Deputy President of South Africa by his successor, current South African president Jacob Zuma. Motlanthe served as Deputy President of the African National Congress (ANC), a position he held from 2007 until 2012, when he declined to run for a second term. At the 53rd ANC National Conference in Mangaung, Free State, Motlanthe ran for the position of President of the ANC, but was soundly defeated by Zuma, who won re-election. He was succeeded as deputy president by Cyril Ramaphosa, but remained Deputy President of South Africa until he was once again succeeded by Ramaphosa in 2014.

Motlanthe, who had maintained a low public profile, was elected to the presidency of South Africa by the South African National Assembly following the resignation of Mbeki, and was widely considered to be acting as a "caretaker president" on behalf of Zuma.[3] Zuma succeeded Motlanthe on 9 May 2009 in a presidential election held by the South African National Assembly, following the 2009 general election which had been won by the ANC.[2]

Motlanthe was previously a student activist, trade unionist and member of the ANC's military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe during the struggle against South Africa under apartheid.[4] Today, Motlanthe, a left-leaning intellectual, is seen as a highly skilled political operator within the politics of South Africa, and a key figure behind the success of Jacob Zuma.[5][6] Motlanthe also holds the status of having been South Africa's first Northern Sotho-speaking president.[7]

Early life

Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe was born on 19 July 1949 at the Boksburg-Benoni Hospital. He grew up in Alexandra, Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng). His parents, Louis Mathakoe Motlanthe, a cleaner and Masefako Sophia Madingoane (d. 2014), a domestic worker married in 1946.

Motlanthe (also known as Mkhuluwa, the elder one) has two younger brothers, Tlatlane Ernest and Lekota Sydney.

Motlanthe's maternal grandfather, Kgalema Marcus Madingoane and his grandmother, Louisa Mmope Sehole lived in Apex, a squatter camp in Benoni East Rand Old Location where they moved to in search of work. Here, Madingoane became involved in community affairs and eventually became a Councillor in Apex. He was instrumental in founding the township of Daveyton in 1955 where he ran a funeral parlour and a general dealership.

When he was 11, his parents were forced to move from Alexandra to Meadowlands. He first attended school in Ga-Mothiba in the northern Transvaal (now Limpopo Province).

Motlanthe returned to Alexandra and enrolled in Grade 1 at an Anglican Missionary School. The school was eventually closed when the administration refused to implement Bantu Education. After this, he attended the Totomeng Lower primary School in Meadowlands and then went to Meadowlands Secondary School, walking several kilometres to and from school. He then enrolled at Orlando High School in Orlando, Soweto.

Motlanthe's parents were practising Christians, which influenced his outlook on life. He served as an altar boy and at one point intended to enter the Anglican priesthood. Family and friends described him as a gentle and kind person.

In 1964, the Anglican Church awarded him a bursary to attend St Christopher's in Swaziland to complete his secondary schooling and then enter the priesthood. His application for travel documents to the Bantu Affairs Department was turned down and they informed him that he had to study in South Africa.

His political interest was aroused after reading the Anglican priest, Father Trevor Huddleston’s book, Naught for Your Comfort. The American Black Panther Movement and the rising Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa also played a role in shaping his political awareness.

Whilst at high school he worked part time at a bottle store in Hyde Park, Johannesburg. In 1969, he began work in the Johannesburg City Council, supervising liquor outlets in Soweto. Stan Nkosi, his closest friend and comrade, Siphiwe Nyanda, former minister of communications and George Nene, deputy director general in the foreign affairs department also worked in this unit at various times. Together they later joined the ANC's military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). During the seven years that he worked there, Motlanthe was able to engage in underground work such as going almost weekly to Manzini, Swaziland couriering ANC recruits for military training.

In 1975, he married Mapula Mokate, from Sophiatown. Mokate was a radiographer at Baragwanath Hospital, Soweto. The couple have two children, Kagiso and Kgomotso.

He attended the Anglican Missionary school now known as Pholoso Primary and matriculated from Orlando High School in Meadowlands, Soweto after his family was forcibly removed there in 1959.[8] The formative influence in his early years was the Anglican Church.[9] He served as an altar boy for many years and at one point thought of becoming a priest.

In the 1970s, while working for the Johannesburg City Council, he was recruited into Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC. He formed part of a unit tasked with recruiting comrades for military training.[10] On 14 April 1976, he was arrested for furthering the aims of the ANC and was 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 an effective 10 years imprisonment on Robben Island, from 1977 to 1987.[11][12] According to the 1977 Survey of Race Relations: "they were alleged to have undergone training for sabotage, promoted ANC activities, and received explosives for sabotage. All pleaded not guilty. Mr Justice Human found Nkosi and Mothlanthe [sic] guilty and sentenced them to effective jail sentences of 10 years each. Mosoeu was acquitted."

On his years in prison:

"We were a community of people who ranged from the totally illiterate to people who could very easily have been professors at universities. We shared basically everything. The years out there were the most productive years in one's life, we were able to read, we read all the material that came our way, took an interest in the lives of people even in the remotest corners of this world. To me those years gave meaning to life."[9]

— Kgalema Motlanthe

Shortly after his release he was elected Secretary-General of the National Union of Mineworkers. In January 1992 the Central Executive Committee elected him acting general secretary in January over Marcel Golding, and in 1997 he was elected Secretary-General of the ANC, replacing Cyril Ramaphosa.

Political career

Motlanthe was elected the Secretary General (SG) of the ANC at its Mafikeng Conference in December 1997 with Thabo Mbeki as its President. He was responsible for ensuring that the ANC implemented and carried out its policies and programmes. He was and is committed to the notion that strict accountability by ANC officials must be followed. At the ANC National General Council (NGC) in Port Elizabeth, 2000, he criticised lack of consultation and discussions between government and the ANC. There is a widely held viewpoint from colleagues and those close to him that Mbeki seriously undermined him for years, although Motlanthe denies it.

In Parliament

Motlanthe was elected Deputy President of the African National Congress at the party's 52nd National Conference in Polokwane in December 2007, defeating the Mbeki camp's choice of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.[13] The new ANC leadership, dominated by supporters of Jacob Zuma, applied pressure on President Thabo Mbeki to appoint Motlanthe to the cabinet. He became a member of parliament in May 2008[14] and in July was appointed to the cabinet by Mbeki as Minister without Portfolio. This was seen as a step towards a smooth transition to a future Zuma government.[15][16]

Following a resolution by the ANC National Executive Commission to "recall" Mbeki from the presidency, Mbeki announced his resignation on 20 September 2008. On 23 September, Nathi Mthethwa, the ANC's Chief Whip, announced that Mbeki's resignation would take effect on 25 September 2008, and ANC President Jacob Zuma said that his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, would become president until the 2009 general election: "I am convinced – if given that responsibility – he (Motlanthe) would be equal to the task."[17][18]

Presidency (2008–2009)

On 25 September 2008, Kgalema Motlanthe was elected by Parliament as the third post-apartheid President of South Africa. The Chief Justice, Pius Langa, announced Motlanthe's election after a secret parliamentary ballot contested between Motlanthe and Joe Seremane from the opposition Democratic Alliance.[19] In the ballot, Motlanthe gained 269 votes from the 351 cast.[20]

Over HIV/Aids, Motlanthe is accused of regurgitating Mbeki's, now widely discredited, denialist's position. However, he changed his stance on ARVs following the government's decision of a mass rollout programme.

Although he has been criticised for standing by Mbeki's “soft and non-confrontational” approach towards the Zimbabwean crisis, in truth he was quite critical of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Morgan Tsvingerai's Movement for Democratic Change. Furthermore, his criticisms of emerging black capitalists and that Black Economic Empowerment was that it should be “restricted to one deal [per individual] and that what was needed was genuine economic transformation that benefitted the Black masses rather than creating an elite club of Black millionaires” has earned him the “resentment of budding Black capitalists.”

Motlanthe has expressed his desire to address AIDS in South Africa using conventional scientific approaches. He appointed Barbara Hogan to replace Mbeki's health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who had denounced anti-retroviral drugs as poisons and advised the use of olive oil, garlic, and beetroot by HIV-positive persons.[21] In early March 1998 he led the ANC's charge against the Medicines Control Council for refusing to allow the testing of Virodene on human subjects. He suggested that the MCC was acting under the sway of rival pharmaceutical manufacturers[9] saying "I surmise that the council is driven by other interests than concern for proper control of medicines".

Motlanthe caused some controversy in South Africa when he did not reinstate the Head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Vusi Pikoli in December 2008.[22] During his brief tenure, Motlanthe had to deal with the Vusi Pikoli matter. Vusi Pikoli, the head of the NPA, was suspended by Mbeki in 2007. Just prior to this Pikoli obtained an arrest warrant for the Commissioner of Police and head of Interpol, Jackie Selebi. The media speculated that Mbeki tried to shield Selebi. As President, Motlanthe recommended to Parliament that Pikoli be fired, even though the [Frene] Ginwala Commission of Inquiry advised otherwise. Motlanthe was widely criticised for his action by the Parliamentary Opposition and the media. He strongly denied that he succumbed to political pressure from the ANC.

President Motlanthe gave his first and only State of the Nation Address on 6 February 2009.[23]

Deputy Presidency (2009–2014)

Motlanthe had no ambition to occupy any government position in the 2009 elections. His aim was “to ensure that the new president is properly inaugurated.” For Motlanthe, “the ANC came first.” Zuma chose Motlanthe for the position of Deputy President, in spite of him having no ambitions to run for any position. The Protection of State Information Bill (POSIB), another highly contentious issue, was strongly opposed by the official Opposition, media and the public. The ANC rejected "the inclusion of a public interest clause in the Bill" despite strenuous opposition from all sectors of society. When the ANC rejected the public inclusion clause Motlanthe argued that “the clause does not exist anywhere in the world.” He also urged the ANC “not to ram the Bill through Parliament.” However, after strenuous objection from various quarters, the ANC's MPs passed the Protection of State Information Bill, with proposed amendments, in the National Council of Provinces in December. Another controversial issue into which Motlanthe was unwittingly dragged into was the Iran helicopter deal, which was published in the Sunday Times of March 2012. The paper stated that Gugu Mtshali, Motlanthe's partner, was involved in a R 104 million bribe to obtain support for a South African company attempting to sell helicopters to Iran in violation of sanctions. The company's director stated that he had met Motlanthe, although the Deputy President denied this. In an attempt to clear his name, he took the matter to the Public Prosecutor to investigate. The Public Prosecutor's report did not implicate him or Mtshali.

Relationship with the ANCYL

Following Zuma's election in 2009, the ANCYL and Julius Malema drifted apart. Zuma owed much to Malema and the ANCYL for his success in being elected as the head of the ANC in Polokwane. At one stage Malema declared that he was prepared “to kill for Zuma.” However, by 2008, Motlanthe warned that Malema and ANCYL leaders were “to be reigned when they behaved unacceptably.” Motlanthe himself had been at the receiving end of the ANCYL and Malema criticisms. Tension between Zuma and Malema was exacerbated following the public sector strike in 2010. Following Malema and the ANCYL's attack on the Botswana government, he (and other leaders) were expelled from the ANC. Motlanthe felt that Malema ought not to have been expelled but rather the ANC should have engaged with the errant ANCYL members. Malema was expelled from the organisation in 2011.


Motlanthe announced his resignation from government and parliament on 12 March 2014, alongside outgoing National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel.[24] Motlanthe is set to become the dean of the ANC's political school.


In 1975, he married Mapula Mokate, from Sophiatown. She was a radiographer who used to work at Leratong Hospital in Mogale City and Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. They are divorced. The couple have three children, Kagiso, Kgomotso and Ntabiseng. They were separated before he became President of South Africa.[25][26] He exchanged gifts with businesswoman Gugu Mtshali in March 2014, in preparation for a Gauteng wedding.[27] He will reportedly move into a "Bali-style" rented mansion in Houghton, Gauteng.[28] Motlanthe married Gugu Mtshali in May 2014, the wedding was attended by 300 guests including President Jacob Zuma.

2012 Presidential campaign

Motlanthe was nominated for the positions of President, Deputy President and NEC member of the ANC at its national elective conference in December 2012, at Mangaung, Free State. Media reports stated that Motlanthe would be standing for election at the conference. Motlanthe ran for the position of President of the ANC at the party's 53rd conference, against incumbent President Jacob Zuma. On 18 December 2012, he was soundly defeated by Zuma and as a result of him not running for re-election as Deputy President, he was not successful in returning to the top-6 leaders of the ANC, and subsequently announced he would not seek a seat on the party's NEC. Speculation has abounded that the ANC could recall him from the deputy presidency, however analysts believe that for the sake of unity Motlante would complete his tenure in which he did until he was succeeded by Ramaphosa following his retirement.

See also


  1. Recording of him taking the oath of office
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Zuma sworn in as SA's fourth democratic President". SABC. 9 May 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Motlanthe: South Africa's safe hands". BBC News. 25 September 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Motlanthe will be president – ANC". News 23 September 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Percival, Jenny (25 September 2008). "Motlanthe elected South African president". London: The Mail & Guardian Online. Retrieved 7 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Percival, Jenny (22 September 2008). "Kgalema Motlanthe: left-leaning intellectual force behind Zuma". The Guardian. UK.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "L'Afrique-du-Sud a un nouveau président : Kgalema Motlanthe" (in French). 22 September 2008. Retrieved 28 September 2008.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Khupiso, Victor (28 September 2008). "Kgalema Motlanthe: The youngster next door who became THE BOSS". The Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Myburgh, James (25 September 2008). "Petrus Kgalema Motlanthe". Moneyweb Network. Retrieved 28 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Profile: Kgalema Motlanthe". The Presidency – Republic of South Africa. Retrieved 28 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  11. Forde, Fiona (23 July 2008). "For now 'Mkhuluwa' is our man". The Star.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Buntman, Fran Lisa (2003). Robben Island and Prisoner Resistance to Apartheid. Cambridge University Press. p. 306. ISBN 0-521-00782-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Jacob Zuma is new ANC president". Mail & Guardian. 18 December 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Proceedings of the National Assembly". Hansard. 20 May 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Mbeki appoints ANC deputy leader to cabinet". Reuters. 12 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Mafela, Ndivhuho (22 June 2008). "Mbeki set to bring Motlanthe into cabinet". The Times. UK.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "South Africa: Mbeki's resignation effective Thursday". 22 September 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Motlanthe: South Africa's safe hands". BBC News. 23 September 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Hartley, Ray (25 September 2008). "Parliament elects Kgalema Motlanthe as president". The Times. UK. Retrieved 25 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Stevenson, Rachel (22 September 2008). "Zuma ally 'to be S Africa leader'". BBC News. Retrieved 25 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Brigland, Fred (26 September 2008). "New president will fight AIDS with science". The Scotsman. Edinburgh.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Motlanthe decides against reinstating Pikoli". Mail & Guardian. 8 December 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Draft Parliamentary Programme Framework 2009" (PDF). Parliament of South Africa. 10 December 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. [1]
  25. The president is home alone – Motlanthe estranged from wife The Sowetan
  26. Motlanthe's 'affairs' a secret IOL
  27. Kgalema makes beautiful Gugu his bride at last Daily Son
  28. "Motlanthe makes plans for new house". The Times (South Africa). 22 February 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Thabo Mbeki
President of South Africa
25 September 2008 – 9 May 2009
Succeeded by
Jacob Zuma
Preceded by
Baleka Mbete
Deputy President of South Africa
9 May 2009 – 26 May 2014
Succeeded by
Cyril Ramaphosa
Party political offices
Preceded by
Cyril Ramaphosa
Secretary-General of the African National Congress
Succeeded by
Gwede Mantashe
Preceded by
Jacob Zuma
Deputy President of the African National Congress
Succeeded by
Cyril Ramaphosa