The ANC once again dips its banner in mourning, as it was informed of the passing of ANC Veteran, Constitutional expert, Diplomat and Leader, cde Zola Sydney Themba Skweyiya, after a protracted illness. Cde Zola Skweyiya passed on just a few days before his birthday on 14 April, when he would have turned 76 years of age.
On behalf of the National Executive Committee of the ANC and the entire membership of the movement, we pass our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Thuthukile Skweyiya and the entire family for their loss. The movement mourns with them as we celebrate the life of this gentle giant of our struggle.
Cde Zola Skweyiya, born in 1942 in Simonstown, Cape Town to Winnie Skweyiya. He did his schooling in Port Elizabeth and Retreat, Cape Town, finally matriculating at Loveday College, Alice in 1960. An activist since high school and at Fort Hare, he joined the ANC in 1956, and organised until he went into exile in 1963, to Tanzania and later Lusaka, Zambia.The ANC sent cde Cde Zola Skweyiya to the German Democratic Republic to study law, and in 1978 he obtained an LLD degree from the University of Leipzig. He worked for the ANC in various offices and capacities and was responsible for setting up the ANC office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Between 1982 and 1985 he represented the ANC at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), before he was recalled to Lusaka to set up the ANC Legal and Constitutional Department there. He headed this department until 1990 in Zambia, and again until 1994 in Johannesburg, after his return to South Africa in 1990. On his return, he also chaired the ANC Constitution Committee. He served on the National Executive Committee of the ANC until 2012.
Cde Zola played a critical role in the constitutional negotiations, not only in the CODESA process and committees, but also in engaging with ANC structures, the legal fraternity and other Alliance and civil society formations on the process. From 1984-1993, he also represented the ANC at the UN Commission for Human Rights. He contributed to the founding of the Centre for Development Studies and the South African Legal Defence Fund, both at the University of the Western Cape. He felt strongly about the resolution of the historical injustice, and an advocate for the policy of affirmative action.
He became a member of Parliament in 1994 and immediately assumed the position of Minister of Public service and administration. In 1999 he was appointed as Minister of Social Development, a post he held for the next ten years until 2009. In social development, he spearheaded the implementation of our social protection system, including the child grants and the formation of the South African Social Security Agency. He was passionate about the protection of the elderly, and held numerous outreach and engagement with older South Africans across the country.
In 2009, he was appointed as High Commissioner of South Africa to the UK and Ireland, where he advanced the interest of South Africa and Africa. On his return, he remained active in veterans structures, an outspoken advocate for the renewal and restoration of the integrity and values of the movement, he served all his life.
We mourn the loss of this gentle giant, whose life was one of service, excellence, and love for his people and movement.
Hamba Kahle, Gentle Giant.
Issued by the African National Congress
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