ANC Central Number
Click to join the ANC
African National Congress




The death of Cde Alfred Nzo

The death of Cde Alfred Nzo

13 January 2000

The ANC regrets the sudden and untimely death of one of the most experienced veteran and stalwart of the South African liberation movement, Cde Alfred Nzo.

Cde Nzo passed away today at Olivedale Clinic in Randburg where he was admitted after suffering a stroke in December 1999. He was 75 years old.

Cde Nzo was one of the longest serving Secretary General`s of the ANC, having held office from 1969 to 1991.

The ANC dips its revolutionary banner in honour of this dauntless and tireless fighter for the liberation of his country and its oppressed people.

The invaluable contribution of this dedicated and committed revolutionary will be sadly missed, especially at this critical time when our people are preparing for the historic second local government elections.

This Comrade has also passed away just after we celebrated our 88th Anniversary as the ANC, where we were bracing ourselves for the daunting challenges of the new year and millennium.

The loss of our dear comrade and friend comes at a time when his lofty leadership skills and political acumen are desperately needed. His selfless dedication to his people`s cause will serve as an inspiration to us as we pick up his fallen spear.

We convey our condolences to the bereaved family members.

Rest in peace Cde SG.

Long live the spirit of Cde Nzo!!!
Long live the liberation struggle!!!

Issued by Smuts Ngonyama, Head of Presidency and Communications
African National Congress
51 Plein Street


Cde. Nzo was born in Benoni in 1925 into a family of five children. His father was a mine clerk on Modder B Mine. Modder B mine would later be converted into Modderbee Prison, where Cde. Nzo himself would be incarcerated.

The young Cde. Nzo was sent off to receive a missionary education in the eastern Cape. After completing his matriculation certificate, he entered Fort Hare in 1945 and registered for a BSc degree. However, the education Cde. Nzo received at Fort Hare was political rather than scientific.

After joining the ANC Youth League at Fort Hare he became active in student politics. He left Fort Hare in his second year of study. After returning to the then Transvaal, he qualified as a health inspector in 1951. He lived and worked in Alexandra township.

It was Cde. Nzo`s experiences as a health inspector in Alexandra that forged much of his understanding of the lives of millions of South Africans in the 1950s. Cde. Nzo`s daily exposure to the frustrations and bad living conditions of people in the township paved the way for his entry into politics.

Cde. Nzo was active in organising the Defiance Campaign in the 1950s. He was also involved in the campaign to interview people about the kind of society in which they would like to live. It was this campaign that culminated in the Congress of the People in 1955, at which the Freedom Charter was adopted.

Cde. Nzo became the chairperson of the Alexandra branch of the ANC in 1956. In 1958 he was voted on to the regional and national executive committees of the ANC.

This was largely due to his work in organising the Alexandra bus boycott of 1957, when the people of Alexandra walked nine miles from the township to town and back every day for three months to protest against the increase in fares. Their demands were finally met. Cde. Alfred Nzo became a full-time worker for the ANC when he lost his job as a health inspector because of his political activities. He carried on his political work in Alexandra, although being fired meant that he lost his permit to live and work in Alexandra. He was arrested several times, and was eventually sentenced to five months imprisonment for failing to have a residence permit.

He was imprisoned in his father`s old office at Modderbee Prison.

In 1962 Cde.Nzo was placed under 24-hour house arrest. In June 1963 he was detained for a period of 238 days. In 1964 the ANC ordered him to leave the country to work for the movement outside South Africa where he took up posts in various countries including Egypt, India, Zambia and Tanzania where he represented the ANC.

At the Morogoro Conference in 1969 Cde. Nzo was elected to the position of secretary general of the ANC. He was re-elected to this post at the Kabwe Conference in 1985.

Following the unbanning of the ANC, he was part of the ANC delegation that was participated in talks with the De Klerk government.

At the July 1991 ANC National Conference Cde. Nzo was defeated by Cde. Cyril Ramaphosa in the election of the new secretary-general. He was then appointed deputy head of the ANC`s security department.

After the 1994 elections Cde Alfred Nzo was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Cde Alfred Nzo`s work in the ANC has always been based on his understanding of the needs of ordinary working class people in South Africa. He has dedicated almost his entire life to the struggle for basic human rights in South Africa.