Back to top

Josiah Jele (1930 - )

The Order of Luthuli in

Josiah Jele (1930 - ) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the fight against the apartheid system in South Africa.

Profile of Josiah Jele

Josiah Khiphusizi Jele was born on 1 May 1930, in Alexandra, Johannesburg.

Growing up in the biggest city in Africa, Jele was exposed to the harsh conditions of colonialism and apartheid. As a working-class black township nestled at the foot of Johannesburg, Alexandra was characterised by grinding poverty, police harassment whilst enforcing apartheid laws, unemployment and many other social ills faced by black people. These were inherent in state-sanctionedracial discrimination.

He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1950, and was detained between 1964 and 1965. Upon his release, he left the country for exile at the advice of the ANC leader Oliver Tambo.

Between 1967 and 1968, he was the ANC’s political commissar in Tanzania – a political education and recreation officer in the army, Mkhonto we Sizwe. During this time, he wrote and edited the army journal Dawn.

Versatile and immensely experienced, he became the ANC Director of Broadcasting where he planned and directed broadcasts from 1969 to 1970.

During this time, he also researched and analysed political developments in South Africa as well as on the international landscape. Despite this taxing task, Jele could still find time to write, edit and present scripts.

His upward mobility was unstoppable and from 1970 to 1971 he was secretary for the African Affairs-World Peace Council in Helsinki, Finland. He formulated and executed policy on matters, which included development, apartheid, security, and independence. In addition, he enriched the discourse of the time by participating in international and regional conferences.

As a prolific writer, he continued to produce articles and edited two newsletters: Focus on Africa and The Peace Courier, which covered events and activities of peace committees in Africa and other parts of the world, respectively.

Based in Lusaka, Zambia, Jele was appointed to the demanding post of the ANC Director of International Affairs from 1978 to 1983.This is the point at which Jele would come into his own to demonstrate the full versatility he possesses, as well as the years of experience he amassed during the insufferable ups and downs of the life in exile.

During this term, he advised on international policy and relations, and planned, directed and co-ordinated the diplomatic and solidarity work of the chief representatives. Putting his vast experience to diplomatic use, he negotiated with governments the establishment of missions and recommended the appointment of chief representatives.

Jele become the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations (UN), New York, in February 1995. His experience as a long-serving anti-apartheid activist once again came in handy as he handled the most delicate international matters in the post cold-war period.

Among his crowning achievements as the Ambassador of a democratic South Africa, he successfully lobbied UN member states for the election of South African candidates to various UN bodies, e.g. Judge N. Pillay to the UN International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda and Prof. John Dugard to the UN Law Commission. He participated in the South African delegation to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development IX in Midrand. He also assumed the vice-presidency of the General Assembly, and the chairpersonship of the Bureau of Non-Aligned Countries, and chaired meetings of the African Group of Ambassadors and the Southern African Development Community Ambassadors group.

Josiah Khiphusizi Jele fought against apartheid without giving a second thought to the possible repercussions. His contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle includes recruiting cadres into the liberation forces, producing papers and articles, raising international consciousness about the monstrosities of apartheid and serving the newly democratic South Africa in the UN Security Council.

Josiah Jele is currently retired from active politics.