Biography

The Founder

Baleka Mbete entered the space of political thought and activism in the early 70’s while residing in KwaMashu as a member of the KwaMashu Youth Organisation. After being hounded by police in 1976, she was advised by comrades who were in detention to leave the country. On 1st of May 1976 she formerly joined the African National Congress (“ANC”) in Swaziland. In 1991 she returned from exile as part of a group of ANC Women League leaders who were part of rebuilding the ANC structures. She started being an ANC NEC member by virtue of becoming the Secretary General of the ANC Women’s League at its 1st conference after unbanning. She continued to be deployed by the ANC in various roles since then up to this day. Continuing political activity has seen her mainly involved in the sectors of women, information and publicity and cultural work (arts and culture). These are the work streams in which her contribution has separately but independently developed over the years. As Secretary General of Women’s league it fell on her to see the women’s voice at the table of the country’s Constitutional talks when the time came. From the World Trade Centre (Interim Constitution) issues of the talks could only be taken to their logical conclusion at an elected forum, a Constitutional Assembly in 1994. The first democratic elections threw her to Cape Town where in 1996 the final constitution was adopted.




In May 1996 on President Nelson Mandela’s instruction, Mbete became Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. In this position she joined the ranks of those deployed to create the institutions of the new constitutional dispensation. The legislative sector is the sector in which she focused, however during the transition, at the end of the 3rd term to the 4th term, Mbete was appointed Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa. At the beginning of the 4th term she was sent back to the Head Office of the party (especially leading the ANC Centenary program). In her last 5th term of Parliament she led the process to finalize the rules book of the National Assembly. She also led the High level Panel program at the speaker’s forum which she was a Chairperson of.



During the 4th term she was appointed a member of the Africa Peer Review Mechanism. She had also led the RSA’s delegation and was a founder member of the Pan-African Parliament & its Committee on International Relations. In January 2016 she was awarded the Dr Martin Luther King Jnr Legacy award for COMMITMENT, LEADERSHIP and SERVICE. In 2018 she got the African Woman of Excellency Award to mention but two.

She’s a founder and trustee of the National Liberation Heritage Institute (“NaLHI”) which seeks to pursue the unearthing and better organization of the history of our people’s proud liberation struggle.