Dr Zola Skweyiya’s life and times

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Former Minister of Public Service and Administration and Social Development Zola Skweyiya died Wednesday morning. Let’s take a look at the life and times of the 75-year-old political activists who dedicated his life serving South Africa.

Born in Simonstown on 14 April 1942, Skweyiya moved to Port Elizabeth where he attended primary school in New Brighton and then in Retreat, Cape Town.

After the Zkweyiya family moved back to Alice in the Eastern Cape, he went to Lovedale College.

Skweyiya participated in school boycotts against the introduction of Bantu Education in 1953.

He matriculated from Lovedale in 1960. Around this time he met and worked with Govan Mbeki.

Mbeki’s commitment to action and sound knowledge of rural politics strengthened Skweyiya’s feeling that the African National Congress (ANC) was on the right track.

At Fort Hare he was an active member of the African National Congress (ANC).

In 1963 he travelled to Tanzania and worked for the ANC until a move to the Lusaka office in 1965.

His intellectual abilities were soon recognised and in 1968 the movement arranged for him to study law as a guest of the German Democratic Republic.

After obtaining his LLD at the University of Leipzig, he worked for the ANC in various capacities, travelling extensively throughout the world.

He returned from exile in 1990. On his return he directed the Department of Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

He helped to set up the Centre for Development Studies and the South African Legal Defence Fund, both at the University of the Western Cape.

Skweyiya was first elected to Parliament in 1994, and he joined the Cabinet as Minister of Public Service and Administration in the same year.

He was moved to the position of Minister of Social Development under President Thabo Mbeki in 1999.

As a minister of Social development Skweyiya took the national lottery board to task. Questioning the distribution of proceeds, saying it left much to be desired of particular concern lack of transparency in the allocation of funds.

Skweyiya said money should be given to those in dire need among the children because it was public money.

As High Commissioner of South Africa to the UK, Skweyiya was also in the forefront of the diplomats who supported the development of Somalia.

Parliament expresses condolences to the family of Dr Zola Skweyiya

The Presiding Officers of Parliament, Speaker Baleka Mbete of the National Assembly and Chairperson Thandi Modise of the National Council of Provinces, have expressed shock at the passing-on of Dr Zola Skweyiya.

Parliament says the nation is gripped by a difficult and painful period of loss of beloved struggle stalwarts, pioneers of a new South Africa, champions of human rights, and lifelong activists for development.

At this moment of loss, pain and reflections on a life well lived, Parliament urges South African to take solace from the fact that Dr Skweyiya surrendered his life to the service of the people as a true champion of human rights, social justice and equality.

“We should celebrate his outstanding life and the legacy he leaves behind for the current and future generations to enjoy a better life,” said the Presiding Officers.

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