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Mosima Gabriel Sexwale (born 5 March 1953), commonly known as Tokyo Sexwale, is the current Minister of Human Settlements of South Africa. A South African businessman, politician, anti-apartheid activist, and political prisoner. His nickname of "Tokyo" is derived from his involvement with the sport of karate as a youth. A charismatic leader, Sexwale was imprisoned on Robben Island for his anti-apartheid activities, alongside figures such as Nelson Mandela. After the 1994 general election—the first universal franchise election in South Africa—Sexwale became the Premier of Gauteng Province. He retired from politics in 1998 and subsequently became a major business leader. Sexwale is married to a white paralegal he met while in Robben Island, Judy van Vuuren; they have two children, Gabrielle and Chris. On 10 May 2009, South Africa's new President Jacob Zuma appointed the veteran Sexwale as Minister of Human Settlements.


Early life and education

Sexwale was born in the township of Orlando West in Soweto. His father was a clerk at Johannesburg General Hospital. Sexwale grew up amid the turmoil of the black township's upheaval; he was eight when he heard the explosions at a nearby post office of the first bombs in the African National Congress's guerrilla campaign. Sexwale graduated from Orlando West High School in 1973.

Sexwale became a member of the Steve Biko's Black Consciousness Movement in the late 1960s and became a local leader of the radical South African Students' Movement. In the early 1970s, he joined the African National Congress's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe ("spear of the nation"). While in Swaziland, he completed a Certificate in Business Studies at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. In 1975, Sexwale went into exile, undergoing military officers' training in the Soviet Union, where he specialized in military engineering.


Upon his return to South Africa in 1976, Sexwale was captured after a skirmish with the South African security forces and, along with 11 others, was charged and later convicted of terrorism and conspiracy to overthrow the government after an almost two-year long trial in the Pretoria Supreme Court. In 1977, Sexwale was sent to the Robben Island maximum-security prison to serve an 18-year sentence. While imprisoned at Robben Island, he studied for a BCom degree at the University of South Africa. Sexwale was released in June 1990 under the terms of the Groote Schuur Agreement between the National Party government and the African National Congress. He had spent 13 years in prison.

During this time he was represented in part by a young white paralegal named Judy van Vuuren. They began a personal relationship while he remained in prison, and soon after his release, in 1990, they became married.

Political career

After his release, Sexwale returned to Johannesburg, where he served as head of the public liaison department of the African National Congress Headquarters. He was subsequently appointed the head of special projects, reporting to the ANC's military headquarters. In September 1990, he was elected as a member of the executive committee of the ANC in the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging (PWV) region. He became the chairperson of the ANC in the PWV region in 1991, a position he held until his resignation in late 1997.

After the South African elections in April 1994, Sexwale was elected as the first premier of the new PWV Province (renamed Gauteng Province in December 1994). In this role, he was credited with bringing peace to several politically volatile townships. Sexwale left politics for the corporate sector in 1998. The reasons for this was never made completely clear, but was reportedly due to feeling stifled by central government restrictions as well as becoming exhausted by internal African National Congress intrigues. Further speculation is that Tokyo left politics due to strong disagreements with the then Vice-President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. Other speculation is that his marriage opened business opportunities in the white-dominated financial sectors that allowed him opportunities not open to other black leaders. Tokyo Sexwale, Cyril Ramaphosa and Thabo Mbeki were possible candidates jostling for the presidency after Nelson Mandela stepped down. Once Thabo Mbeki appeared as the favourite candidate, both Sexwale and Ramaphosa left politics to follow successful careers as businessmen.

On 7 January 2007, The Sunday Times reported that Sexwale was campaigning for a leadership position within the ANC, which would have put him in position to replace Thabo Mbeki as President of South Africa in 2009. Sexwale admitted on BBC's Hard Talk that if asked to stand for the elections as party president by structures of the ANC, he would seriously consider it. [1] He was elected to the ANC's 80-member National Executive Committee in December 2007 in 10th place, with 2,198 votes.[2]

On 10 May 2009, President Jacob Zuma appointed Sexwale as Minister of Human Settlements[3], a ministry which replaced the Department of Housing.

Business career and philanthropic activities

Upon leaving the public sector, Sexwale founded Mvelaphanda Holdings (mvelaphanda is the Venda word for "progress"), a company of which he is still executive chairman. Mvelaphanda is primarily focused on the mining, energy and related sectors. Some of Sexwale's main interests are oil and diamond mining, for which he has been granted concessions across Africa and Russia; these interests are controlled by a subsidiary of Mvelaphanda Holdings called Mvelaphanda Resources, of which he is chairman.

In particular, Sexwale has become a major player in the diamond industry, with his company reportedly being the third biggest after De Beers and JFPI Corporation. He was praised by no less a figure than Harry Oppenheimer, the patriarch of the Anglo-American and De Beers corporations, as having an understanding of the South African and international diamond mining industry that few can equal.

Sexwale also chairs companies such as the Trans Hex Group Ltd. and Northam Platinum Ltd.; in addition, he is a director of companies such as Absa Group Limited, Allied Electronics Corporation Ltd. (more commonly known as Altech) and Gold Fields Ltd. (the latter two positions are non-executive).

He is also known as a philanthropist and is a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Global Philanthropists Circle of the Synergos Institute, the Business Trust and the Robben Island Ex-Prisoners Trust. Furthermore, he is a patron of societies such as Johannesburg Child and Family Welfare Society, Streetwise South Africa (an organisation dedicated to assisting street children), Save the Family Fund (catering for families and communities ravaged by apartheid violence) and The Sky is No Limit (which aims to expose disadvantaged youths to hi-tech education in computers and aviation).

In 2005, he hosted the South African version of the reality game show The Apprentice.

He currently serves as the seat holder for A1 Team South Africa, racing in A1 Grand Prix, and as a member of the organising committee for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, to be held in South Africa.

Personal life

Sexwale has two children by a first wife, and two children by his second wife, Judy Van Vuuren, a paralegal he met on Robben Island. Following his financial success, he moved into the previously predominantly white suburb of Illovo with his family.

His children now attend a private school in Johannesburg.


In 2001 Sexwale was accused, along with Cyril Ramaphosa and Mathews Phosa, of plotting to depose President Thabo Mbeki. Sexwale denied the charges and all three received the backing of Nelson Mandela; they were later exonerated from all accusations.

In 2002, he was refused a visa to enter the United States, which kept him from attending the listing of Gold Fields (a company in which he holds a 15 percent stake) on the New York Stock Exchange. It later transpired that he, along with many prominent South African anti-apartheid figures such as Nelson Mandela and South African cabinet minister Sidney Mufamadi, were still on that country's list of global terrorists. After initiating legal action (going so far as to having papers served on the U.S. Department of State) and following personal intervention by Condoleezza Rice, Sexwale and the others received ten-year waivers from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Homeland Security, as the government felt that permanently delisting them would mean changing the law, which would be a lengthy process. in April 2008 the waiver was lifted and the ANC members along with the ANC were removed from the terrorist list in the USA following strong intervention by Condoleezza Rice. USA spokesperson was quoted as saying,"it is a disgrace that a country like the United States still has a ban on statesmen that fought the oppression of their people. It is disgusting that Nelson Mandela still has to apply for special permission to enter Washington DC."

In 2005, Sexwale was roundly criticised for being "indecisive" during the live finale of the South African version of The Apprentice, which he fronted on SABC3. Both finalists, Zanele Batyashe, 24, and Khomotso Choma, 34, were hired in the finale which aired September 22. [4] [5] [6]

A further black mark against Sexwale is the appearance of his name in a United Nations report on illegal transactions under the oil-for-food programme.[7]

Sexwale's Group 5 has received criticism for their involvement with Gugulethu Tycoon, Mzoli Ngcawuzele in the Guguletu Square Mall.[8] [9]

In July 2009 Sexwale was criticised by some civil society organisations and academics for what they called 'publicity stunts' [10]. as well as for accusing protesting communities of fermenting 'anarchy' and threatened 'zero tolerance' against protesters 'acting under other flags.' [11]. [12], [13].


Sexwale has received many honours and awards, including the Légion d'honneur from France, an honorary doctorate in technology from Nottingham Trent University, an honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from De Montfort University, the Order of the Freedom of Havana (Cuba), the Cross of Valour (Ruby Class) from South Africa, and the Reach and Teach Leadership Award, from the United States. He is also chancellor of the Vaal University of Technology.

Sexwale is also an honorary colonel in the South African Air Force and chair of the Council for the Support of National Defence, whose aim is to encourage part-time military service as well as building support in society for those who wish to serve in the military as volunteers. In 2004, he was voted 43rd in the list of "Top 100 Great South Africans".

Sexwale holds positions in many international organisations, such as President of the South African/Russian Business, Technological and Cultural Association and Vice President of the South African/Japanese Business Forum. He is also an Honorary Consul General of Finland in South Africa.

See also


  1. ^ Tycoon may run for top ANC post BBC 8 January 2007
  2. ^ Brendan Boyle, "Winnie Mandela tops ANC election list", The Times (South Africa), December 21, 2007.
  3. ^ Tokyo Sexwale to head South Africa's New Housing Ministry Architect Africa 10 May 2009
  4. ^ Indecisively Yours Blog
  5. ^ Apprentice ends in tie News24 23 Sep 2005
  6. ^ Sexwale 'had his reasons' News24 26 Sep 2005
  7. ^ Tokyo guns for presidency Sunday Times 8 Jan 2007
  8. ^ "David vs Goliath in Gugulethu". Mail&Guardian. 2008-10-15.  
  9. ^ "Eyona Tenants joining in opposition to Guguletu Square Mall". AbM.  
  10. ^ [1] Cut the stunts and do something real
  11. ^ [2] 'Sexwale warns unruly protesters' by Gaye Davis, The Star, 1 July 2009
  12. ^ [3] Media Briefing by Minister on Human Settlements Budget
  13. ^ [4] Sexwale slams families protesting against government oppression

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Danie Hough
as Administrator of the Transvaal
Premier of Gauteng
7 May 1994 – 19 January 1998
Succeeded by
Mathole Motshekga

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