Jeff Thamsanqa Radebe

Jeffrey Thamsanqa “Jeff” Radebe was born in Cato Manor in Durban in 1953 and lived there until 1958 when his family was forcibly removed to Kwa-Mashu. He obtained a B. Juris Degree from the University of Zululand in 1976; LLM in International Law from Leipzig University and studied at the Lenin International School, Moscow.

Radebe joined the African National Congress (ANC) during the student uprisings in 1976 and served his articles to become a lawyer in Durban. In 1977 he left the country for Mozambique and then Tanzania, on ANC instruction. He underwent military training with Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), but was arrested and convicted under the Terrorism Act of the Apartheid government after an unsuccessful secret ANC mission. Radebe was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on Robben Island but was released in 1990 after organising a 12-day hunger strike to speed up the release of political prisoners. He subsequently became the chairperson of ANC’s Southern Natal Region, served on the Natal Regional Dispute Resolution Committee and as the chairperson of the Regional ANC Peace Forum. In 1995, he became a member of the Ex Political Prisoners Committee.

Jeff Radebe

Among other achievements, he received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters by the Chicago State University and the Leucospermum flower named Radebe Sunrise was bestowed in him in 2005. He was awarded Honorary Colonel by the South African Air Force, Mobile Deployment Wing in 2006.

He is South Africa’s longest continuously serving cabinet member and has been a part of every post-apartheid administration. He has served in the role of Minister in the Department of Public Works (1994-1999), Department of Public Enterprises (1999-2004) and the Department of Transport (2004-2009), Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development (2009 – 2014) and Minister in the Presidency (2014 – 2018). He played a significant part in shaping the much-debated National Development Plan, which aims to ensure that all South Africans attain a decent standard of living through the elimination of poverty and reduction in inequality by the year 2030.

Jeff is married to Bridgette Radebe, South Africa’s first black female mining entrepreneur.

Photograph courtesy of