Teacher, member of SASO and the ANC, head of the Medu Arts Ensemble (Gaborone), Member of COSAW, Secretary General of the ANCWL, Speaker of the National Parliament, poet
Baleka Kgositsile was born on the 24 September 1949 in Claremont, Durban. She spent her pre-school years with her grandmother in the Northern Transvaal but completed her primary schooling in Durban.
In 1958 her family moved to Fort Hare University where her father had been appointed librarian. Many political figures were either students or lecturers at the university at the time, and her father, a member of the South African Communist Party eventually lost his position when the government imposed a crackdown on all political activities in the campus. Baleka was then sent to boarding school and she matriculated from the Inanda seminary in 1967.
Baleka enrolled at the Eshowe Training College but was soon expelled for challenging the college authorities. She then went on to Lovedale Teacher Training College in Alice and completed in 1973. She went to teach in Durban where she soon became active in Black-consciousness affiliated organisations and through this she established contact with the African National Congress's underground structures. When Baleka’s brother, a member of the Black Consciousness oriented Natal Youth Organisation was arrested, she decided to leave teaching but was also arrested soon after this. During her detention, she received a note from her brother who was at the time an awaiting trial prisoner in Johannesburg’s John Voster Square, the note instructed her to leave the country.
She left the country on the 10th of April 1976, with the assistance of the ANC underground and went into Swaziland, leaving her two children behind. In Swaziland she worked for the ANC and by the end of that year she had obtained a teaching post in Mbabane.
In 1977, she left for Tanzania where she became the first secretary of the regional women’s section of the ANC, which was established as a result of a growing number of women going into exile.
In 1978, she married exiled writer, Keorapetse Kgositsile and in 1981, left Tanzania to join him in Kenya where he taught at the University of Nairobi. Following the attempted coup in Kenya, Baleka fled to Botswana where she resumed her work with ANC structures. She became the head of the writers and music units of the Medu Gaborone Arts Ensemble until the disruption of their activities by the South African Defence Force raid in 1985.
She then left for Zimbabwe where she joined women’s committees but soon left to work for the ANC’s women’s section in Lusaka until the relaunch of the ANC Women’s League in 1990.
In June 1990, Baleka returned to South Africa and at the first national conference of the ANC Women’s League, she was elected secretary general. She currently serves the ANC’s national executive committee and is a member of the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW). She has published an anthology of poems, Essential Things.
Donate and Make African History Matter
South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.
Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.