Mzansi Profiles! People Tokyo Sexwale Biography: Early Life | Political career | Business Ventures | Personal Life

Tokyo Sexwale Biography: Early Life | Political career | Business Ventures | Personal Life

Tokyo Sexwale Biography: Early Life | Political career | Business Ventures | Personal Life post thumbnail image

This is the biography of Tokyo Sexwale, an ANC politician, businessman, political prisoner and former premier of Gauteng.


Early Life and Education

Mosima Gabriel “Tokyo” Sexwale was born on March 5, 1953, in the township of Orlando West, Soweto, South Africa. His father, a clerk at Johannesburg General Hospital, had served in World War II. Growing up during the tumultuous times of apartheid, Sexwale was influenced by the black township’s upheaval. He completed his high school education at Orlando West High School in 1973.


Tokyo Sexwale Early Political Life

In the late 1960s, Sexwale became involved with Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement and quickly rose to become a local leader of the radical South African Students’ Movement. His political activism deepened in the early 1970s when he joined the African National Congress’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”).

Sexwale went into exile in 1975, where he underwent military officers’ training in the Soviet Union, specialising in military engineering. During his time in Swaziland, he also completed a Certificate in Business Studies at the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland.


Tokyo Sexwale Biography

Tokyo Sexwale Biography [Image: Getty Images]


Upon his return to South Africa in 1976, Sexwale was captured after a skirmish with the South African security forces. He was charged and later convicted of terrorism and conspiracy to overthrow the government. In 1977, he was sent to Robben Island maximum-security prison, where he served alongside Nelson Mandela and other prominent anti-apartheid activists.

While imprisoned, Sexwale did not let his confinement hinder his pursuit of knowledge. He studied for a BCom degree at the University of South Africa, demonstrating his resilience and commitment to self-improvement.

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Tokyo Sexwale Release and Political Career

Sexwale was released in June 1990 under the terms of the Groote Schuur Agreement. After the 1994 general election, the first fully democratic election in South Africa, he became the Premier of Gauteng Province. He served in this capacity from May 7, 1994, until January 19, 1998. During his tenure, he was credited with bringing peace to several politically volatile townships and was a key figure in the province’s early governance.


Tokyo Sexwale Biography

Tokyo Sexwale Biography [Image: Mail And Guardian]


Sexwale later served as the Minister of Human Settlements from May 10, 2009, to July 9, 2013, under President Jacob Zuma. In this role, he was responsible for developing and implementing housing policies to improve living conditions and manage urbanisation effectively.

In addition to his political roles, Tokyo Sexwale is also an Honorary Colonel in the South African Air Force.

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Tokyo Sexwale Business Ventures

Sexwale founded the Mvelaphanda Group in 2003, which became a leading black economic empowerment investment holding company through the merger of Mvelaphanda Holdings and Reserve. The Mvela Group has diversified assets across various sectors, including healthcare, finance, industry, real estate, and, notably, mining.

As the Executive Chairman of Mvelaphanda Holdings, Sexwale was heavily involved in diamond and platinum mining operations. His ambition in the mining sector was significant, with aspirations to become a figure akin to Harry Oppenheimer, a prominent name in the diamond industry.

In 2008, the Mvelaphanda Group entered into a joint venture with OZ Management and Palladino Holdings to create Africa Management Limited. This venture aimed to pursue private investment opportunities within Africa, with a focus on mineral resources and energy1.

Sexwale’s business interests have extended beyond the borders of South Africa, with investments rumoured to include extensive mineral assets across Africa. He has been recognized as a key role model in South Africa’s black empowerment process.

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Personal Life

Tokyo Sexwale Biography

Tokyo Sexwale Biography [Image: Briefly]


Tokyo Sexwale was the third born in a family of six children. His father, Frank Sexwale, was a World War II veteran, and his mother’s name was Godlieve.

Sexwale has been married twice. He had two children with his first wife, whose identity has not been made public. He then married Judy van Vuuren, a paralegal he met while imprisoned on Robben Island. The couple had two children, Gabrielle and Chris, and lived in Boksburg before filing for divorce in 2013.

His son, Chris Sexwale, works as an engineer, while his daughter, Gabrielle Sexwale, is a photographer. He also has a daughter named Kay Sexwale, who was born in Lesotho while he and his parents were in exile. Additionally, he has a child named Nasima with his girlfriend, Natasha da Silva, born in 2016.

Beyond his family, Tokyo Sexwale is known for his love of sports, particularly soccer, which earned him his nickname “Tokyo” after the Japanese city that hosted the 1964 Olympics. His personal interests and hobbies, however, remain largely private, reflecting his preference to keep his personal life separate from his public persona.

Sexwale is also known for his philanthropic efforts. He is a trustee and founder of the Sexwale Family Foundation and the Desmond Tutu Peace Trust.



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