BIRTH NAME: Andrek Panyaza Lesufi
DATE OF BIRTH: 4 September 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Dindela (Edenvale), Gauteng
Panyaza Lesufi is the MEC of Education of the Gauteng Provincial Government; a position he has held since June 2014.
Early Life, Background And Childhood
Andrek Panyaza Lesufi was born on the 4th September 1968 in Dindela (Edenvale), Gauteng. His parents were forcefully removed from Edenvale to Tembisa during the notorious Group Areas Act.
Panyaza Lesufi started his schooling at Tlamatlama Lower Primary School, proceeded to Tshepisa Higher Primary School, then to Boitumelong Senior Secondary School and to the then University of Natal. He holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.
He is also an activist who rose through the ranks of both student and youth movements before leading students as the President of the SRC at the University of Natal Durban (now KwaZulu-Natal) while studying for Bachelor of Business Administration.
It was while at the University of Natal that he served on its highest decision making body, Council, as well as Senate and the Executive Committee of the University.
Career and Political Activism
Panyaza Lesufi was the Chief Editor of the student newspaper and was founder of Dome Youth Radio now known as now Durban Youth Radio.
He received his radio training at the then Capital Radio in Durban and was instrumental in the media politics through the South African Student Press Association (SASPU).
He was also a political prisoner arrested under the 1988 State of Emergency Regulations and served his stint at the Modderbee Prison.
He served in the underground structures of MK, SDUs and other then banned youth and student formations.
Mr Panyaza also worked with the NGO sector as Outreach Manager of the Tembisa Careers Centre.
Lesufi has long being involved in the ANC-led Mass Democratic Movement, spending most of his youth in the student and youth movement.
He started his political activism in Tembisa, driven by his passion for a united, non-racial-democratic and non-sexist South Africa.
The Boitumelong Secondary School in Tembisa, later renamed Thabo Mbeki by student activist in the 1980s was the fulcrum and crucible of Lesufi’s early political activism.
He was recruited by Cde Kennedy Nkoane a fellow student activist, to become an activist in the struggle against apartheid after his elder brother, Nikisi Lesufi skipped the country to join the ANC outside the country after he escaped from prison as a student leader at the then University of the North, Turfloop.
While part of the broad struggle against apartheid, education became his foremost terrain of struggle. It can be said that education transformation has become an ‘accidental’ lifetime passion for the former student activist turned MEC for Education.
Lesufi was an active member and leader of COSAS, Tembisa Student Congress (TESO which replaced COSAS when it was banned). As part of COSAS and later the Tembisa Careers Centre he was also active in the National Education Crisis Committee. These organisations were affiliates of the United Democratic Front. As such he was a grass-root activist of the Front.
For his ‘troubles’ Lesufi was constantly harassed by the apartheid police – especially the notorious Special Branch. He served a stint in detention in 1989 at the Modderbee Prison and again in 1995 at Durban City Prison while spearheading the higher education transformation agenda.
At university, he was active in the South African Student Congress (SASCO) in the then Natal Region. He was later to be elected President of the SRC of the then University of Natal (Durban Campus). He is a recipient of the University of Natal’s Chief Albert Luthuli Award, presented to him by former President Thabo Mbeki. The university also bestowed him the Best SRC President Ever in recognition of his leadership qualities.
An all-round activist, Lesufi was also active in the Self-Defense Units to defend our people from the violence unleashed by the third force and the apartheid government in the 1980s and early 90s.
Lesufi was in the forefront of efforts to rebuild the ANC after it was unbanned. He served for three (3) terms as Branch Secretary of the then ANC Tembisa Branch, before becoming Deputy Regional Secretary of the then Kyalami Region, a position he held for almost nine (9) years. He was also the founding Deputy Regional Secretary of the ANC Ekurhuleni Region.
He has been a member of the Provincial Executive Committee since 2007 and served in the NEC Education Sub-committee. He was recently elected as Deputy Chairperson of the ANC in Gauteng.
He also worked within the NGO sector as Outreach Manager of the Tembisa Careers Centre; in community structures, such as the Community Policing Forum and the South African Tertiary Institutions Sports Congress (SATISCO-Durban) and as Chairperson of the Creative Arts Society (CASOC).
Panyaza Lesufi has a deep interest in establishing new public institutions from scratch. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality as a key person behind the founding Executive Mayor, the late Bavumile Vilakazi. He was also approached by the then Minister of Social Development, the late Dr. Zola Skweyiya to be part of a team to establish what is known today as the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).
He was also working with Minister Nathi Mthethwa in the police when the process to establish the Priority Crimes Unit (The HAWKS) unfolded.
He was also at the forefront when the Department of Basic Education was established in 2014.
In a nutshell Lesufi is a former spokesperson, advisor to the Minister and currently MEC for Education in the Gauteng Province since 2014.
He has worked in post-1994 administration in various capacities include:
- Ekurhuleni Municipality
- Gauteng Department of Social Development
- Gauteng Department of Education
- Department of Basic Education
- National Prosecuting Authority/South African Police Service
- South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)