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Popo Molefe

The Order of Luthuli in

Popo Molefe Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the fight against the unjust laws of apartheid often at times putting his life in danger to ensure freedom for all South Africans.
Profile of Popo Molefe

Popo Molefe was born in 1952 in Sophiatown, Johannesburg. He was one of eight children. He comes from a strong tradition of working-class parents. His mother was a domestic worker and his father a labourer. His political awareness began when he visited his mother in the suburb where she worked. He also bore witness to security police brutality in the townships. These experiences sharpened him politically from a young age. He looked for like-minded groups and found a home in the Black People’s Convention in 1973, which he joined while still at school. He also joined the South African Students’ Movement and became involved in the 1976 Soweto Uprising.

Molefe was part of the Soweto Action Committee, which founded the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) in 1978. He became the chairperson of the Soweto branch of Azapo for a year in 1979 and 1980. With the influence of struggle stalwarts such as Joe Gqabi, Nelson Mandela and others, Molefe realised that there was a need to involve people of other race groups in the struggle against apartheid. This prompted him to work with other movements.

He resigned from Azapo due to clash of ideologies in 1981. He continued to work with groups that were looking to work together in realising the dream of a democratic South Africa. He was part of the group that established the Soweto Civic Organisation, and served on its committee between 1982 and 1984. In 1983 Molefe participated in the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF). He was elected Secretary for the Transvaal region, and later served as National Secretary. He was involved in the UDF throughout its existence, and played an important role in the UDF, aside from when he was in prison.

In 1990 he was elected chairperson of the African National Congress’ (ANC) Alexandra branch and deputy chairperson of the ANC’s Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging region. In 1991 Molefe was elected to the National Executive Committee and the National Working Committee of the ANC. He became involved with rebuilding the ANC, was appointed chairperson of the 80th Anniversary Celebration Committee of the ANC and in 1992 became chairperson of the national election commission of the ANC. In 1994 Molefe became Premier of North West, a position he held until April 2004. Molefe continues to contribute to the development of South Africa as a democratic society. Molefe is currently Brand Ambassador for South Africa.