Kgalema Motlanthe

Kgalema Motlanthe is the South African politician who served as President of South Africa for the remainder of Thabo Mbeki‘s second term and as Deputy President of South Africa during Jacob Zuma‘s first term. He served one term as Deputy President of the African National Congress (ANC) and was succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa at 2012 Elective Conference of the ANC which was held in Mangaung in the Free State province of South Africa.

Born Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe
July 19, 1949
Boksburg, Gauteng
South Africa
Nationality South African
Political Party ANC
Occupation Politician
Wives Mapula Motlanthe
(1976 – 2010)
Gugu Mtshali
(2014 – to date)
Children Kagiso Motlanthe
Kgomotso Motlanthe
Nthabiseng Motlanthe
Religion Anglicanism

  3rd President of South Africa

  September 25, 2008 – May 9, 2009
 Deputy  Baleka Mbete
 Preceded By  Thabo Mbeki
 Succeeded By  Jacob Zuma

5th Deputy President of South Africa

May 9, 2009 – May 26, 2014
President Jacob Zuma
Preceded By Baleka Mbete
Succeeded By Cyril Ramaphosa

Deputy President of the ANC

December 1, 2007 – December 18, 2012
Preceded By Jacob Zuma
Succeeded By Cyril Ramaphosa

Secretary-General of the ANC

1997 – 2007
President Thabo Mbeki
Preceded By Cyril Ramaphosa
Succeeded By Gwede Mantashe

Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe was born in Boksburg at the Boksburg-Benoni Hospital in the East Rand, Gauteng province of the Republic of South Africa – then Transvaal Province of the Union of South Africa.

He was raised in Alexandra township, Johannesburg with his two younger brothers, Tlatlane Ernest Motlanthe and Lekota Sydney Motlanthe.

Kgalema Motlanthe’s parents were married in 1946; his father, Louis Mathakoe Motlanthe, was a cleaner and his mother who died in 2014, Masefako Sophia Madingoane, was a domestic worker.

His parents were practicing Christians and that influenced his outlook on life. Kgalema Motlanthe served as an altar boy and at one point, h  intended to enter the Anglican priesthood.

Kgalema Motlanthe’s maternal grandfather, Kgalema Marcus Madingoane and his grandmother, Louisa Mmope Sehole lived in Apex, a squatter camp in Benoni East Rand Old Location where they moved to in search of work.

Here, Madingoane became involved in community affairs and eventually became a Councillor in Apex. He was instrumental in founding the township of Daveyton in 1955 where he ran a funeral parlour and a general dealership.

When Kgalema Motlanthe was 11 years old, his parents were forced to move from Alexandra to Meadowlands.

He first attended school in Ga-Mothiba in the northern Transvaal – part of today’s Limpopo province of South Africa.

Kgalema Motlanthe returned to Alexandra and enrolled in Grade 1 at an Anglican Missionary School.

Anglican Missionary School eventually closed when the administration refused to implement Bantu Education.

When Bantu Education closed, he attended the Totomeng Lower primary School in Meadowlands and later attended Meadowlands Secondary School.

Kgalema Motlanthe later left Meadowlands Secondary School and went to Orlando High School in Orlando, Soweto.

In 1964 the Anglican Church awarded him a bursary to attend St Christopher’s in Swaziland to complete his high education and then enter the priesthood.

His application for travel documents to the Bantu Affairs Department was turned down and they informed him that he had to study in South Africa.

Whilst at high school he worked part time at a bottle store in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.

In 1969 Kgalema Motlanthe began work in the Johannesburg City Council, supervising liquor outlets in Soweto.

Stan Nkosi, his closest friend and comrade, Siphiwe Nyanda, former minister of communications and George Nene, deputy director general in the foreign affairs department also worked in this unit at various times.


Struggle against Apartheid

Kgalema Motlanthe political interest was aroused after reading Father Trevor Huddleston’s (Anglican priest)book, Naught for Your Comfort. The American Black Panther Movement and the rising Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) in South Africa also played a role in shaping his political awareness.

Along with Stan Nkosi, George Nene and Siphiwe Nyanda Kgalema Motlanthe joined the ANC’s military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). During the seven years that he worked there, Kgalema Motlanthe was able to engage in underground work such as going almost weekly to Manzini, Swaziland couriering ANC recruits for military training.

On April 14, 1976 Kgalema Motlanthe was arrested for furthering the agenda 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 where Jacob Zuma had spent a decade and Nelson Mandela remained serving life imprisonment along with Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada among other apartheid activists.

In 1987 Kgalema Motlanthe was released from prison and was was elected Secretary-General of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

In January 1992 the Central Executive Committee elected him acting general secretary over Marcel Golding.


Post 1994 Political Career

In December 1997 Kgalema Motlanthe was elected Secretary-General of the ANC at 50th ANC Elective Conference held in Mafikeng in the North West, replacing Cyril Ramaphosa.

In 2002 he was re-elected Secretary-General of the ANC at 51th ANC Elective Conference held at the University of Stellenbosch in Stellenbosch, Western Cape.

In December 2007, at the 52nd ANC Elective Conference held in Polokwane, Kgalema Motlanthe was elected Deputy President of the ANC defeating challenger Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The ANC leadership elected at the 52nd ANC Elective Conference put pressure on then President Thabo Mbeki to appoint Kgalema Motlanthe to the cabinet.

In May 2008 he became a Member of Parliament (MP) and in July of the same year he was appointed to the cabinet by President Thabo Mbeki as Minister without Portfolio.


President of South Africa

On September 21, 2008 at 19:30 South African time (17:30 UTC) Thabo Mbeki officially resigned as President of South Africa following a resolution by the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) to recall him after it found that he was no longer fit to hold the office of the President of South Africa and it no longer to supported him in parliament.

On September 23 Nathi Mthethwa, then ANC Chief Whip, announced that Thabo 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.”

On September 25, 2008 Kgalema Motlanthe was elected by Parliament as the 3rd post-apartheid President of South Africa. The Chief Justice, Pius Langa, announced Kgalema Motlanthe’s election after a secret parliamentary ballot contested between Kgalema Motlanthe and Joe Seremane from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).

  • AIDS

On the issue of HIV/Aids, Kgalema Motlanthe is accused of regurgitating Thabo Mbeki‘s, now widely discredited, denialist’s position. However, he changed his stance on ARVs following the government’s decision of a mass roll-out programme.

Kgalema Motlanthe expressed his desire to address AIDS in South Africa using conventional scientific approaches. He appointed Barbara Hogan to replace Thabo 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.

In early March 1998 he led the ANC’s charge against the Medicines Control Council (MCC) 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 saying “I surmise that the council is driven by other interests than concern for proper control of medicines”.

  • Zimbabwe

Although Kgalema Motlanthe has been criticized for standing by Thabo Mbeki‘s “soft and non-confrontational” approach towards the Zimbabwean crisis, in truth he was quite critical of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) and Morgan Tsvingerai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Furthermore, his criticisms of emerging black capitalists and that Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) was that it should be “restricted to one deal [per individual] and that what was needed was genuine economic transformation that benefited the Black masses rather than creating an elite club of Black millionaires” has earned him the “resentment of budding Black capitalists”.

  • Vusi Pikoli Controversy

In December 2008 Kgalema Motlanthe did not reinstate the Head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Vusi Pikoli. During Kgalema Motlanthe’s brief tenure, he had to deal with the matter of Vusi Pikoli, the head of the NPA, who was suspended by President Thabo Mbeki in 2007.

Prior to his suspension, Vusi Pikoli obtained an arrest warrant for then Commissioner of Police and head of Interpol, Jackie Selebi. The media speculated that Thabo Mbeki tried to shield Jackie Selebi.

Kgalema Motlanthe recommended to Parliament that Pikoli be fired, even though the Ginwala Commission of Inquiry advised otherwise. Kgalema Motlanthe was widely criticized for his action by the Parliamentary Opposition and the media. He strongly denied that he succumbed to political pressure from the ANC.

On February 6, 2009 President Kgalema Motlanthe gave his first and only State of the Nation Address.


Deputy President of South Africa

After the 2009 General Election Jacob Zuma became President of South Africa, despite reportedly having no ambition to occupy any position in government, Kgalema Motlanthe became his deputy.

  • The Protection of State Information Bil

The Protection of State Information Bill (POSIB), another highly contentious issue, was strongly opposed by the official Opposition, media and the public. The ANC rejected “the inclusion of a public interest clause in the Bill” despite strenuous opposition from all sectors of society. When the ANC rejected the public inclusion clause Kgalema Motlanthe argued that “the clause does not exist anywhere in the world.” He also urged the ANC “not to ram the Bill through Parliament.” However, after strenuous objection from various quarters, the ANC’s MPs passed the Protection of State Information Bill, with proposed amendments, in the National Council of Provinces in December.

  • Iran helicopter deal

Kgalema Motlanthe was dragged into the Iran helicopter deal issue, the story was published in the Sunday Times of March 2012. The paper stated that Gugu Mtshali, Kgalema Motlanthe’s then partner – now wife, was involved in a R 104 million bribe to obtain support for a South African company attempting to sell helicopters to Iran in violation of sanctions. The company’s director stated that he had met Kgalema Motlanthe, although the Deputy President denied this. In an attempt to clear his name, Kgalema Motlanthe took the matter to the Public Prosecutor to investigate. The Public Prosecutor’s report did not implicate Kgalema Motlanthe or Gugu Mtshali.


Julius Malema led ANC Youth League

In 2007 Julius Malema led ANC youth League (ANCYL) was instrumental in the election of Jacob Zuma as President of the ANC at the 52nd ANC Elective Conference held in Polokwane.

In 2008 Kgalema Motlanthe warned that Julius Malema and ANCYL leaders were “to be reigned when they behaved unacceptably”.

In 2009 the relationship between Jacob Zuma‘s ANC and Julius Malema‘s ANCYL began to deteriorate. By 2011 the relationship between Jacob Zuma‘s ANC and Julius Malema‘s ANCYL had reached an all time low. By early 2012 Julius Malema was expelled from the ANC.

Kgalema Motlanthe felt that Julius Malema should not to have been expelled but rather the ANC should have engaged with the errant ANCYL members.


Mangaung Elective Conference

In 2012 Kgalema Motlanthe was nominated for the positions of President, Deputy President and NEC member of the ANC at the 53rd National Elective Conference of the ANC held in Mangaung in the Free State.

Kgalema Motlanthe would later run for the position of President of the ANC against incumbent President Jacob Zuma.

On December 18, 2012 he was heavily defeated by Jacob Zuma and as a result of him not running for re-election as Deputy President, he was not successful in returning to the top-6 leaders of the ANC and subsequently announced he would not seek a seat on the ANC NEC.

At that Mangaung elective conference Cyril Ramaphosa was elected Deputy President of the ANC and after the 2014 General Election he became Deputy President of South Africa – succeeding Kgalema Motlanthe on both positions.


Retirement from Public Office and ANC Leadership

Following the 53rd National Elective Conference of the ANC, Kgalema Motlanthe announced he would not seek a seat on the ANC NEC.

On March 12, 2014 he announced his resignation from government and parliament.

Kgalema Motlanthe will reportedly head the ANC’s political school.


Personal Life and Family

In 1975 Kgalema Motlanthe married Mapula Mokate from Sophiatown. She was a radiographer who worked at Leratong Hospital in Mogale City and Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.

Jeff Radebe-Gugu Mtshali-Kgalema Motlanthe-Cyril RamaphosaThe couple have three children, Kagiso, Kgomotso and Ntabiseng. They were separated before he became President of South Africa and they have since divorced.

In May 2014 Kgalema Motlanthe married Gugu Mtshali, the wedding was attended by 300 guests including President Jacob Zuma.

On May 9, 2014 Kgalema Motlanthe’s mother, Masefako Sophia Motlanthe, died of natural causes at her home in Meadowlands, Soweto a day before his wedding. She was 9 years old at the time of her death.