Baleka Mbete

Baleka Mbete-Kgositsile, widely known as Baleka Mbete, is a South African politician who is currently serving as a Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa and the national chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC) under President Jacob Zuma. She was the second female Deputy President of South Africa when she served under President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Baleka Mbete
Born Baleka Mmakota Mbete
September 24, 1949
Claremont, Durban
South Africa
Nationality South African
Political Party ANC
Occupation Politician
Husband Keorapetse Kgositsile
1978 – 1992 (Divorced)

Speaker of the National Assembly

May 21, 2014 – to date
President Jacob Zuma
Preceded By Max Sisulu

Deputy President of South Africa

September 25, 2008 – May 9, 2009
President Kgalema Motlanthe
Preceded By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Succeeded By Kgalema Motlanthe

Speaker of the National Assembly

April 2004 – September 25, 2008
President Thabo Mbeki
Preceded By Frene Ginwala
Succeeded By Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde

Baleka Mbete was born in Claremont township of Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal province of the Republic of South Africa – at the time Natal Province of the Union of South Africa.

She spent her early childhood years in Northern Transvaal – today’s Limpopo province and later returned to Durban where she later completed her primary schooling.

In 1958 Baleka Mbete’s family moved to Fort Hare University where her father had been appointed librarian.

Many political figures were either students or lecturers at Fort Hare University at the time, and her father, a member of the South African Communist Party eventually lost his position when the government imposed a crackdown on all political activities on campus.

Baleka Mbete was sent to boarding school and  in 1967 she matriculated from the Inanda Seminary School.

She then registered to study at Eshowe Training College in Eshowe, a town nearly halfway between Durban and Richards Bay.

Baleka Mbete did not complete her training there as she was expelled for challenging the college authorities.

She enrolled Lovedale Teacher Training College in Alice and in 1973 she completed her studies.

Baleka Mbete returned to Durban, KwaZulu-Natal to teach and it was there that she became an active of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) affiliated organizations and through this she established contact with the African National Congress’s (ANC) underground structures.

When Baleka Mbete’s brother  was arrested, she decided to leave teaching but was also arrested shortly after. During her detention, she received a note from her brother who was detained at John Vorster Square in Johannesburg while awaiting trial – the note instructed her to leave South Africa.

On April 10, 1976 Baleka Mbete  left South Africa for Swaziland with the help of the ANC. When she arrived in Swaziland she worked for the ANC but later found a teaching job in Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland.

In 1977 she left Swaziland for Tanzania where she became the first secretary of the regional women’s wing of the African National Congress. The women’s  wing of the African National Congress was established as a result of a growing number of women going into exile.

In 1978 Baleka Mbete married Keorapetse Kgositsile, an exiled South African poet, writer,  political activist and influential member of the ANC.

In 1981 she left Tanzania to join her husband, Keorapetse Kgositsile, in Nairobi, Kenya. At the time Keorapetse Kgositsile was a lecturer at the University of Nairobi. Following the attempted coup in Kenya, Baleka Mbete fled to Botswana where she continued with her work within the ANC structures.

While in Botswana, Baleka Mbete became the head of the writers and music units of the Medu Gaborone Arts Ensemble.

In 985 her activities at Medu Gaborone Arts Ensemble in Botswana were brought to an end by the raid conducted by the South African Defence Force. She left Botswana and went to Zimbabwe where she worked with women’s committees before joining the ANC’s women’s section in Lusaka.

In 1990 the African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) – originally founded as the  Bantu Women’s League in 1931 and later officially founded as the ANCWL in 1948 – was re-launched. This was the same year the Baleka Mbete returned to South Africa from exile.

In 1991 the first national conference of the ANC Women’s League was held. In that national conference she was elected it’s secretary general, a position she held until 1993.


Post 1994 Politics

In 1996, under the Nelson Mandela administration, Baleka Mbete became deputy speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa. She remained in this post after the 1999 General Election when Thabo Mbeki became President of South Africa.

On May 20, 2014 she was nominated for the position of Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa for a second time and on May 21, 2014 she was elected unanimously ahead her rival Democratic Alliance (DA) candidate and former Eastern Cape Premier Nosimo Balindlela.

Baleka Mbete was a member of the Presidential Panel on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

She is a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC and the member of the Pan-African Parliament.

On December 18, 2007, at the 52nd National Elective Conference of the ANC held in Polokwane, Baleka Mbete was elected party Chairperson, defeating Joel Netshitenzhe. Tokyo Sexwale withdrew his candidacy and endorsed Baleka Mbete. She was later re-elected at the 53rd National Elective Conference of the ANC held in Mangaung in 2012 ahead of challenger Thandi Moside.


Deputy President of South Africa

On September 20, 2008 the ANC recalled Thabo Mbeki as President of South Africa.

On September 21, 200 in her capacity as speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete accepted Thabo Mbeki‘s resignation as President of South Africa.

Although it was initially speculated that she would succeed Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe would later become President of South Africa and in the resulting fallout, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka also resigned as Deputy President of South Africa.

On September 25, 2008 President Kgalema Motlanthe appointed Baleka Mbete as Deputy President of South Africa amid reports that Lindiwe Sisulu would take up the position.

After the 2009 General Election, Jacob Zuma became President of South Africa and on May 10, 2009 he appointed Kgalema Motlanthe as Deputy President of South Africa.


Other Activities

While in exile, Baleka Mbete worked as a broadcaster for Radio Freedom.

She is a shareholder in Dyambu Holdings. The company was involved in building the Gautrain.

Baleka Mbete is a member of the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW). She has published an anthology of poems, Essential Things.

From 2009 to 2014 Baleka Mbete was not a member of parliament, after all the MPs were sworn-in after the 2009 General Election, the ANC released a statement saying she would “remain at Luthuli House” – and she did for the entire first term of President Jacob Zuma.



Baleka Mbete, like many African and World leaders, have been embroiled in numerous controversies. Her controversies range from a alleged fraudulent driving license to the subsidized travel privileges scandal as well as her loyalty to ANC heavyweight and convicted fraudster Tony Yengeni.

  • Driving License

In April 1997 Baleka Mbete was found to have received an improperly issued driver’s license but not charges were ever brought against her. This after investigators uncover widespread corruption in Mpumalanga regional driving license testing centers, where licenses are being issued in exchange for bribes. It was claimed that Baleka Mbete had said that she had been “too busy” to stand in queues but she denied ever saying that.

  • Inauguration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

In 2006 Baleka Mbete chartered a jet at a cost of R471 900 to fly to Liberia for the inauguration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president. The only other passenger on the plane was a member of her staff. The inauguration was also attended by then president Thabo Mbeki and foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Thabo Mbeki in his private plane and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma by commercial flight.

  • Mike Waters

In 2007 Baleka Mbete suspended DA member Mike Waters after he attempted to ask what was being done about the Manto Tshabalala-Msimang scandal. Mike Waters had asked about a reported conviction for theft of the Minister of Health, while she was a nurse in Botswana.

  • Travelgate

Baleka Mbete was one of more than 200 South African parliamentarians found to have misused subsidize travel privileges in the Travelgate scandal. She is reported to have paid back all moneys due in the liquidation of the travel agency formerly providing services to parliament.

  • Tony Yengeni

Baleka Mbete has been a staunch supporter of Tony Yengeni, a former ANC Chief Whip in parliament, who was convicted of defrauding parliament in 2004, even accompanying him to Pollsmoor Prison when he reported to serve his sentence.


Personal Life and Family

In 1978 Baleka Mbete married Keorapetse Kgositsile, an exiled South African poet, writer,  political activist and influential member of the ANC.

It has been reported that when she went to exile in Swaziland in 1976, Baleka Mbete left behind two children – aged four months and a year and four months – but they followed shortly after she left.

In 1992 she divorced from Keorapetse Kgositsile, media reports have cited her political ambitions as the cause of the collapse of her 14 year marriage.

The struggles of Duma Kgositsile, Baleka Mbete’s son, have been documented in the media.  Duma Kgositsile, who was born in either 1979 0r 1980, reportedly tried to commit suicide at one point in his life. In 1997 Baleka Mbete was quoted saying “It is one of the saddest things for me that he has been in and out of mental hospital for the past three years”.

Baleka Mbete’s former husband, Keorapetse Kgositsile, is the father of Thebe Neruda Kgositsile who is better known by his stage name, Earl Sweatshirt.

He (Earl Sweatshirt) is an American hip hop artist with an American hip hop collective from Los Angeles, California – Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.