Joe Slovo was one of the three formost leaders of the anti-aparthied strugle. He was a life-long Socialist, Internationalist, and is widely credited with being one of the masterminds of South Africa’s national reconciliation, and was described by close friend Nelson Mandela as a “Great African Patriot”
Joe Slovo was a key personality in South African revolutionary politics for four decades. He was the most influential white member of the African National Congress and its chief military strategist. After the un-banning of the ANC in 1990, Slovo returned from enforced exile to play a critical role in South Africa’s democratic transition and after the election last April won wide respect as Minister of Housing in the government of national unity.
After Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo is probably the most important figure in the Anti-Aparthied Struggle. There were two people who held the African National Congress together in the years between the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and the un-banning of the movement in 1990. One of them was Oliver Tambo and the other was Joe Slovo. While Oliver Tambo’s gentle charm kept the personalities together, Joe Slovo organised structure and policy.
Slovo was a founding member of the Congress of Democrats, was one of the accused in the famous 1956 Treason. Slovo was Chief of Staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe, and served on the revolutionary council of the ANC from 1969 until its dissolution. In 1985, Slovo became the first white member of the ANC’s National Executive. He was also General Secretary of the SACP from 1986 to 1991 and later its Chairperson.
In 1991, Slovo served on the National Peace Committee, Slovo also served on the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA).
After the 1994 elections Joe was elected to cabinet where he became Minister of Housing until his death on 6 January 1995.
During his time as Minister, Joe was instrumental in negotiating an agreement with the South African Banks to finance low cost housing.
For many Africans, not just South Africans Slovo remains a hero. In 1994 in recognition, of his achievements the Isithwalandwe-Seaparankoe Award was conferred upon Joe by President Mandela.