Mbhazima Samuel (Sam) Shilowa, was born in Olifantshoek in the Transvaal (now Limpopo Province.) After High School, Shilowa moved to Johannesburg, where he found a job at the Anglo-Alpha cement company. In 1982, he led a strike, and started to get involved in the Trade Union Movement.
In 1986, he was dismissed at Anglo-Alpha for his political activities. Shilowa began working underground for both the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). His position as a guard for a security company provided good cover. In 1990 Shilowa was elected the Vice Chairperson of the United Democratic Front (UDF) on the Witwatersrand. He went on to hold a number of important positions in the new South Africa, including general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
On 15 June 1999 Shilowa was appointed premier of Gauteng. He resigned in 2008 following the removal of Thabo Mbeki from office. Shilowa then joined the Congress of the People (COPE) and was elected Deputy President in December 2008. He has since been expelled from the party following accusations of mismanaging parliamentary funds.