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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Cancer wasn’t Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s only battle

'The digital footprint is that of being corrupt and I want to clean my name. I have no life and no future,' said Joemat-Pettersson in an interview believed to be her last before her death.

She has been described as energetic, passionate and hard-working. But behind the impressive struggle legacy of the Kimberly-born, youthful-looking anti-apartheid activist Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who this week died at the age of 59, has been her continued battle to shake off a blot of being perceived as corrupt.

Serving as cabinet minister during the Jacob Zuma presidency, Joemat-Pettersson found herself – like many of her ANC-deployed comrades – embroiled in questionable multi-billion-rand state deals, bordering on graft and state capture.

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The last straw was revelations of a string of WhatsApp messages, shared with the Hawks, which have led to suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s husband David Skosana, opening a criminal case of extortion against Committee for Section 194 chairperson Qubudile Dyantyi, Joemat-Pettersson and ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina.

Joemat-Pettersson’s past

While she called on police to investigate the allegations, it is Joemat-Pettersson’s past – while serving in the Zuma administration – which continued to haunt her until her death.

“The digital footprint is that of being corrupt and I want to clean my name. I have no life and no future,” a depressed Joemat-Pettersson poured her heart out during an interview with Radio 702, believed to be her last before her death.

‘The digital footprint is that of being corrupt and I want to clean my name. I have no life and no future,’ said Joemat-Pettersson in an interview believed to be her last before her death.

Former ANC MP and political analyst Melanie Verwoerd, has disagreed with a public speculation that Joemat-Pettersson committed suicide.

Said Verwoerd: “I remember Tina as a warm, hard-working person with a lot of joy – full of life.

ALSO READ: Tina Joemat-Pettersson leaves a complicated legacy

“As far as I know, Tina has been sick for a long time – suffering from cancer. Her passing, surely has nothing to do with any of the accusations levelled against her – having been unwell for a long time before she died.

“Her ill-health might have been aggravated.”


Among highlights of her illustrious political career, Joemat-Pettersson became a:

  • Member of the Azanian Students’ Organisation (Azaso) during the height of apartheid state repression in the 1980s.
  • Member of the National People’s Education in 1992, national representative of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, Union of Democratic University Staff Association and regional delegate to the ANC national education and cultural desk.
  • Cabinet minister who served in agriculture, land reform, forestry, fisheries and energy portfolios.
  • Northern Cape Education, Arts and Culture MEC.
  • National executive committee member of the ANC.
  • Chairperson of the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police.

Having attended William Pescod High School, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Executive Management in Education, from the University of Cape Town.

She later graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and History; and a Higher Diploma in Education from the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

She worked as a teacher before becoming active in politics.

Said independent political analyst Sandile Swana: “Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s background is impressive for a person of her age – a student at UWC in the mid-1980s and part of Azaso, which later became Sansco (SA National Students’ Congress) after a transition from the Black Consciousness to the Charterist perspective.

“Before the ANC Polokwane conference, she progressed very well in the educational sector structures of the ANC.

“She rose through the ranks until becoming an MEC in the Northern Cape.

“She sacrificed her conscience of being a revolutionary while serving as a cabinet minister during the Zuma-Cyril Ramaphosa presidency – having been embroiled in scandals, something which overshadowed all her good work before the Polokwane conference.

“She became someone with a moral flexibility – now dying under a cloud.”

‘Little regard for public purse’

In her book Permitted Plundering, author Ilse Salzwedel, wrote: “Joemat-Pettersson acted with little regard for the public purse”, with former public protector Professor Thuli Madonsela having noted in her 2012 report: “She displayed a blank cheque attitude towards public funds.”

A chronicle of scandals involving Joemat-Pettersson have included:

  • An order by Madonsela for her to repay the state R151 878, spent on return flights for her two children and their au pair, from Sweden to South Africa in 2010.
  • A splurge of public funds in 2014 on a luxury Sandton guesthouse for 28 people.
  • A call by Madonsela in 2015 for her to face disciplinary action for her role in influencing an R800 million marine resources tender.
  • Signing an agreement in 2015, approving the sale of 10 million barrels of strategic oil reserves, held by the Strategic Fuel Fund.
  • Being behind the R1 trillion SA-Russia secret nuclear deal, which was overturned in 2017 by the Western Cape High Court.

Despite being implicated in a litany of financial scandals, involving billions in taxpayers’ money, Joemat-Pettersson has earned praise from the ANC leadership.

ALSO READ: Former minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has died

Said Ramaphosa: “We have lost a remarkable leader who dedicated herself to improving the quality of life in her home province of the Northern Cape in the early years of our democracy – before assuming national responsibilities in key portfolios.

“We will miss the passion and vigour with which she fought for a better South Africa – from the rural villages of the Northern Cape to the benches of Parliament and international platforms.”

Said Majodina: “Comrade Tina served the people of South Africa in Parliament and government for several terms in various positions.

“She was a proud product of the people of her province, the Northern Cape, whom she held in high esteem. Congress of the People national spokesperson Dennis Bloem described her passing as “a huge loss, not only to her family but to the Northern Cape and the entire country.”