Frank Chikane

Names: Chikane, Frank

Born: 3 January 1951, Johannesburg

In summary: Pastor, member of the UDF and the ANC, Director-General in the Office of the President; Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Cape Town; Honorary President of the  Nebo Youth Congress and Co-ordinator of the Institute of Contextual Theology.

Frank Chikane, the son of James and Erenia Chikane, was born on 3 January 1951 in Johannesburg. His father was  a preacher in the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) church. Chikane attended Orlando High School in Soweto where he matriculated before registering at the University of the North (Turfloop) in 1972 to study science. It is at Turfloop where he met with Cyril Ramaphosa. As a student, he became politically aware, being influenced largely by the Black Consciousness ideology. Thus, he became involved in the activities of the South African Student Organisation (SASO) at university. His political activism led to his repeated detention which in turn disrupted his education forcing him to leave the university in 1974. Chikane later continued his education obtaining a Master of Arts degree from Harvard University and a Master of Theology from the University of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal).

In 1979, Chikane completed his training as a pastor at the Apostolic Faith Mission. He was subsequently defrocked in 1981 due to his political involvement. After the end of apartheid, he was re-instated, as a pastor.

Chikane was detained and released on various occasions between January 1977 and 1985. In the 1980s, Chikane became involved with the United Democratic Front (UDF) becoming the vice president of the Transvaal region from 1983 to 1985. Subsequently, he was arrested, charged and tried for treason in February 1985. The charges were later dropped.

In 1983 Chikane served as the Director at the Institute of Contextual Theology a position held until 1987.

Then in July 1987 he was elected General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), replacing Dr. Beyers Naudé. The police then went to harass the SACC as their offices were raided the same year that he was appointed.

In 1988, Chikane’s autobiography No Life of My Own was published. The book gives an insight into his childhood life, growing up black under apartheid, and continuing through his call to the Christian ministry and his suspension from his own church.

In 1989 a peculiar event happened to Chikane as he collapsed while on a United States visit, it was determined that his clothing had been impregnated with poison.

In the 1990s, Chikane remained involved with the SACC, and had the task of carrying the organisation through the period of change. He attempted to draw the more conservative churches back in the SACC, and directed the church through the 1994 election. He focused on changing the image on the SACC from a political movement to one that can play a role in mediation.

In 1994, Chikane began work as the Director General in the office of the Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, and remained there until June 1999.  Chikane became the Director General in the office of the President, in June 1999 until 2009. In December 1997, he was elected to the NEC of the African National Congress (ANC).

In 2007, five former security officials in South Africa's apartheid regime received suspended prison sentences for plotting to kill Chikane. Former Police Minister Adriaan Vlok and his police chief Johan van der Merwe received suspended 10-year sentences. The others received suspended five-year sentences. Under a plea bargain, all five admitted trying to kill Chikane in 1989. Chikane said he did not want to see the men go to prison. Vlok sought forgiveness from Chikane in 2006 by washing his feet as an act of seeking Christian forgiveness.

In 2009, media reports stated that he was nominated by Congress of the People (COPE) members in the Gauteng area to be on their election list.  Chikane who was then Director General in the Presidency said that refused to take up a position in COPE.

In July 2010, Chikane published an eight-part series called “The Chikane Files”, which appeared in several Independent newspapers. “The Chikane Files” caused anger in the ruling party. Chikane returned to the Ministry of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa in Soweto.

On 15 March 2012, Chikane launched his book: “Eight Days in September: The Removal of Thabo Mbeki”. The book gives a fascinating, behind-the-scenes account of the removal of Thabo Mbeki as South African President in September 2008, it also explores Mbeki’s legacy.

Other positions held by Chikane include

  • Senior Research Fellow, Department of Religious Studies, University of Cape Town, (1995 - 2009)
  • Honorary President, Nebo Youth Congress, (1987 - 2010)
  • Director - Institute of Contextual Theology (1983 - 1987)
  • Chairman - Forum of Director-Generals in SA (FOSAD)
  • Chair - International Council of the Apostolic Faith Mission
  • Swedish Diakonia Peace Prize for Outstanding Theology Contribution for Justice and Peace in SA - Institute for Contextual Theology
  • Honoured by African-American Institute at its Annual Awards Dinner - African-American Institute
  • Peace and Freedom Prize - Swedish Labour Movement
  • DTh (hc) - Rijkuniversiteit, Groningen, Netherlands

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