Zwelinzima Joseph Vavi was born on 20 December 1962 on a farm in Hanover, Northern Cape. His father was a mineworker. Vavi has four brothers and seven sisters. He is the 10th child in a family of 12. Until he was baptised, he did not know the date of his birthday. He was a child labourer, looking for work on neighbouring farms. He matriculated in 1983. He attended Maritaaz Technical College where he obtained a secretarial qualification.
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