Kgalema Motlanthe

Kgalema Motlanthe
His Excellency
Kgalema Motlanthe
Deputy President of South Africa
Assumed office
9 May 2009
President Jacob Zuma
Preceded by Baleka Mbete
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 the African National Congress
Assumed office
18 December 2007
Preceded by Jacob Zuma
Secretary-General of the African National Congress
In office
Preceded by Cyril Ramaphosa
Succeeded by Gwede Mantashe
Personal details
Born Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe
19 July 1949 (1949-07-19) (age 62)
Alexandra, Transvaal Province, Union of South Africa
Nationality South African
Political party African National Congress
Spouse(s) Mapula Motlanthe
Religion Anglicanism

Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe (pronounced [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, completing the second elected term of Thabo Mbeki.[2]

Following 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 is also concurrently serving as Deputy President of the African National Congress (ANC), a position he has held since 2007, likewise under Zuma who is also the current President of the ANC.

Motlanthe, who had thus far 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 former 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 Tswana-speaking president.[7]


Early life

Motlanthe was born on 19 July 1949 in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, the son of a mineworker[8] and a garment worker, Sophie Motlanthe.[9] 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.[9] The formative influence in his early years was the Anglican Church.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12][13] According to the 1977 Survey of Race Relations Survey: "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."[10]

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.[8] He is married with two daughters and a son.[12]

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.[14] 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[15] 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.[16][17]

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."[18][19]


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.[20] In the ballot, Motlanthe gained 269 votes from the 351 cast.[21]

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.[22] 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[10] 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.[23]

President Motlanthe gave his first and only State of the Nation Address on 6 February 2009.[24]


Motlanthe is separated from his wife Mapula Motlanthe, a radiographer who used to work at Leratong Hospital in Mogale City. They were separated before he became President of South Africa.[25][26] He and his girlfriend businesswoman Gugu Mtshali, will reportedly move into a "Bali-style" rented mansion in Houghton, Gauteng.[27]

See also

  • Cabinet of Kgalema Motlanthe


  1. ^ Recording of him taking the oath of office
  2. ^ a b "Zuma sworn in as SA’s fourth democratic President". SABC. 9 May 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  3. ^ "Motlanthe: South Africa's safe hands". BBC News. 25 September 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  4. ^ "Motlanthe will be president – ANC". News 23 September 2008.,,2-7-2457_2398126,00.html. Retrieved 25 September 2008. 
  5. ^ Percival, Jenny (25 September 2008). "Motlanthe elected South African president". London: The Mail & Guardian Online. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  6. ^ Percival, Jenny (22 September 2008). "Kgalema Motlanthe: left-leaning intellectual force behind Zuma". The Guardian (UK). 
  7. ^ "L’Afrique-du-Sud a un nouveau président : Kgalema Motlanthe" (in French). 22 September 2008. Retrieved 28 September 2008. 
  8. ^ a b Calland, Richard (2006). Anatomy of South Africa: Who holds the Power?. Zebra. ISBN 1868729036. OCLC 76873292. 
  9. ^ a b Khupiso, Victor (28 September 2008). "Kgalema Motlanthe: The youngster next door who became THE BOSS". The Times. 
  10. ^ a b c Myburgh, James (25 September 2008). "Petrus Kgalema Motlanthe". Moneyweb Network. Retrieved 28 September 2008. 
  11. ^ "Profile: Kgalema Motlanthe". The Presidency – Republic of South Africa. Retrieved 28 September 2008. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b Forde, Fiona (23 July 2008). "For now 'Mkhuluwa' is our man". The Star. 
  13. ^ Buntman, Fran Lisa (2003). Robben Island and Prisoner Resistance to Apartheid. Cambridge University Press. p. 306. ISBN 0521007828. 
  14. ^ "Jacob Zuma is new ANC president". Mail & Guardian. 18 December 2007. 
  15. ^ "Proceedings of the National Assembly". Hansard. 20 May 2008. 
  16. ^ "Mbeki appoints ANC deputy leader to cabinet". Reuters. 12 July 2008. 
  17. ^ Mafela, Ndivhuho (22 June 2008). "Mbeki set to bring Motlanthe into cabinet". The Times (UK). 
  18. ^ "South Africa: Mbeki's resignation effective Thursday". 22 September 2008.'s-resignation-effective-thursday-2008092312613.html. Retrieved 23 September 2008. 
  19. ^ "Motlanthe: South Africa's safe hands". BBC News. 23 September 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2008. 
  20. ^ Hartley, Ray (25 September 2008). "Parliament elects Kgalema Motlanthe as president". The Times (UK). Retrieved 25 September 2008. 
  21. ^ Stevenson, Rachel (22 September 2008). "Zuma ally 'to be S Africa leader'". BBC News. Retrieved 25 September 2008. 
  22. ^ Brigland, Fred (26 September 2008). "New president will fight AIDS with science". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 
  23. ^ "Motlanthe decides against reinstating Pikoli". Mail & Guardian. 8 December 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  24. ^ "Draft Parliamentary Programme Framework 2009" (PDF). Parliament of South Africa. 10 December 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2009. 
  25. ^ The president is home alone – Motlanthe estranged from wife The Sowetan
  26. ^ Motlanthe's 'affairs' a secret IOL
  27. ^ "Motlanthe makes plans for new house". The Times (South Africa). 22 February 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009. 

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 – present
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

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