11 April, 2018.
It is a sad day today that the people of South Africa woke up to the tragic news of the passing away of an outstanding patriot and revolutionary, Dr Zola Skweyiya, after a short illness.
Dr Skweyiya was born on the 14th April 1942 and passed away on the 11th April 2018, just three days away from his birthday.
He joined the ANC Youth League at the tender age of fourteen (14) years in 1956. When the ANC adopted armed struggle as a result of the intransigence of the apartheid regime and not long after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, Zola Skweyiya was among the first members to join the people’s army, uMkhonto We Sizwe, which was formed in 1961.
He left the country and underwent military training in the Soviet Union with some of the first combatants of the Luthuli Detachment. Subsequently he was sent to study at the University of Leipzig in the then German Democratic Republic where he acquired his doctorate in law.
Dr Zola Skweyiya’s whole life was dedicated to the struggle against apartheid and to replace it with a just, non-racial and non-sexist society in South Africa. The envisaged new democratic order would be founded on the values of peace, justice, equality and the pursuit of happiness in which each individual has the opportunity and the possibility to grow and unleash their creative abilities to their fullest potential.
During the period in exile Dr Zola Skweyiya served the ANC in different capacities. He was the first Chief Representative to open an office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the seat of the Organisation of African Unity at the time. He was appointed Head of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Department of the ANC which produced the Constitutional Guidelines which formed the basis of the interim constitution of 1993.
When the democratic dispensation came into force from 1994, Zola Skweyiya served in both the Administrations of Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki as Minister of Public Service and Administration from 1994 to 1999 and Minister of Social Development from 1999 to 2009 respectively.
In 2009 he was appointed as the South African High Commissioner in London by former President Jacob Zuma.
Dr Skweyiya continued to be actively involved in the politics of the ANC, including working as part of the ANC Veterans and Stalwarts even though his health was beginning to fail him.
The Thabo Mbeki Foundation and its Patron former President Thabo Mbeki its Board of Trustees and staff members wish to express our profound and sincere condolences to the family of comrade Zola Skweyiya, his wife Thuthukile, his comrades in the African National Congress as well as the Veterans and Stalwarts of the ANC.
His sterling contribution to the demise of apartheid and the building of a democratic South Africa will forever remain as a source of inspiration for generations to come.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.