South Africa – A notable businessperson, Tokyo Sexwale remains a man with many secrets. An anti-apartheid activist, a former Minister of Human Settlements of South Africa, a businessperson, Politician, and a former political prisoner.
Mosima Gabriel Sexwale was born on March 5 1953 in the township of Orlando West, Soweto, to proud parents of the Venda culture. He grew up living his early years amid the black uprising and political turmoil. He was named ‘Tokyo’ from an early age because of his keen interest in Karate. As a youngster, he joined the black movement of Steve Biko and in the early 1970s, Sexwale joined the African National Congress (ANC). There is a period in Sexwale’s life, where he went into exile and underwent military training in the Soviet Union specializing in military engineering.
Upon his return to South Africa, and after the uprising against the government, he was arrested and imprisoned on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela. During his imprisonment, he continued his studies. During his prison term, a young white legal woman, Judy, represented him and this relationship blossomed into marriage after his release. After the negotiations and freedom of Nelson Mandela, Tokyo was released and served under the Mandela administration. As the premier of Gauteng, he received many credits for bringing peace to the volatile townships.
During 1998, he left politics. The reason was never apparent. It was the same year that saw Mandela retire, and the Thabo Mbeki government continuing with the ANC in power. Strong disagreements within the ANC national executive committee were cited as one of the reasons why Sexwale retired from public service. Additionally, the oppressive central government restrictions were among other reasons.
Following politics, Sexwale focused on a corporate career and began to emerge as a major competitor in the diamond industry. He drove his company to a top spot with his formidable knowledge of the local and the international diamond mining industry. He remains a remarkable businessperson, and formed the Mvelaphanda Group, recouping mining concessions across Africa and Russia.
His compassionate and noble character remains an affluent distinction among his peers and equals. Earning the respect and trust of government and corporate people alike, Tokyo Sexwale is a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Trust, among others and chairperson and director of a number Mandela companies. A powerful businessperson indeed.
Tokyo is a loyal and trusted member of the Mandela companies and has remained a caring and respected friend of Nelson Mandela. Their historical path and commitment to peace sparked a secure bond of trust between them over the years. Nelson Mandela trusted Tokyo Sexwale commitment to the fulfillment of his desires to the Mandela family. However, over the past few months, his position within the Mandela trust and companies has caused speculation among the Mandela children.
Although not actively involved in politics or government, he remained a focused participant of the ANC party and was mentioned as a possible candidate for deputy president in 2007. He pursued the nomination but withdrew and backed the then deputy president Jacob Zuma. In 2009, he was back into the political fold of the government and was appointed Minister of Human Settlements by President Jacob Zuma.
He served this position well and retained a respectable call from the black townships around the country. While acting in this role, Tokyo Sexwale was hailed as a compassionate person by the ordinary people of South Africa.
During 2012, Tokyo Sexwale brokered a deal to secure mining rights in Guinea’s mining projects, and a USD $25 million loan was granted for this joint venture. Seen as an investment for both private and public markets across Africa, the agreement itself was questioned, and investigations of irregularities began to grow. This report and transfer of the money was published across the media causing speculation of unresolved issues.
Tokyo Sexwale has been a guiding light to the younger generation, as well as a generous donor to the needy, but in recent months, he has been in the spotlight over his dismissal from the government role of Human Settlements Minister. In addition, he is embattled with the legal dispute of the Mandela daughters as they try to remove him as trustee and director of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and companies.
During April of this year, the daughters of Nelson Mandela started legal proceeding to have Tokyo Sexwale among others removed from the Nelson Mandela foundation and companies. The legal dispute continues while the elderly Nelson is supposedly on life support after spending more than 55 days in Intensive Care Treatment.
During July 2013, the Zuma government once again initiated a cabinet reshuffle of ministers, and this time, Tokyo Sexwale was dismissed from his post. The fourth-cabinet change since 2009.
The timing of his dismissal from government and the legal action brought about from the Mandela daughters to have him removed as a trustee and director from the Nelson Mandela foundation and companies, raises concern that the intricacies of the whole saga are weaving a web of deceit.
Tokyo Sexwale remains a man of many secrets and his honest nature will gather momentum during this tricky period.
Written by Laura Oneale