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Stephen (Steve) Vukile Tshwete (1938 - 2002)

The Order of Luthuli in

Stephen (Steve) Vukile Tshwete (1938 - 2002) Awarded for:
His lifetime contribution to the struggle for a free, non-sexist, non-racial and democratic South Africa.

Profile of Stephen (Steve) Vukile Tshwete

Stephen (Steve) Vukile Tshwete was born in Springs on 12 November 1938. He spent his childhood in the village of Nkonkqweni (Peelton), and later in King William's Town and East London.

Inspired by the tribulations of the African National Congress (ANC) leadership while reading reports of the Treason Trial in the late 1950s in the Imvo Zabantsundu, Tshwete joined the ANC soon after he left school and immersed himself in political activism in the Eastern Cape.

In the early 1960s, Tshwete was appointed a member of the Border Regional Command of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the ANC.

He was arrested in the national raids in 1963 together with scores of other MK leaders and members. In 1964, he was sentenced to 15 years, which he served on Robben Island.

When the United Democratic Front was formed in 1983, Tshwete was elected President of its Border region. After he was detained for four months and constantly harassed by the security police and declared persona non grata by Ministerial decree, Tshwete went into exile, first to Maseru and then Zambia.

Tshwete was sent for high-level military training and was appointed Army Commissar of MK. In 1988, he was co-opted onto the ANC National Executive Committee and formed part of the ANC delegation to the Groote Schuur talks in May 1990. He returned to the country in May 1990 to assume the position of national organiser and Chairperson of the National Organising Committee.

As head of the ANC's Sports Desk and as the first Minister of Sport and Recreation in South Africa's democratic government, Tshwete played a pivotal role in the de-racialisation and normalisation of South African sport. Tshwete was appointed Minister of Safety and Security after the 1999 elections, a position he held until his death on 26 April 2002.

Tshwete was a man of many talents, all of which he harnessed in the cause of liberating his people. His outstanding leadership, acute mind, compassionate nature and wide interests were of great benefit to the liberation struggle and to the democratic Government. He made an invaluable contribution to our country.