Carl Niehaus was born on 25 December 1959 and grew up in Zeerust, North West Province. He completed his higher education at Rand Afrikaans University (RAU). A student of theology, Niehaus was months away from his final exams in 1980 when he was expelled from RAU for putting up campus posters that supported Nelson Mandela's release from prison.
In the same year, he resigned from the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) as he was opposed to their compliance with the apartheid system. He joined and became a deacon in the African Dutch Reformed Church in Alexandra and in July 1980 Niehaus joined the African National Congress.
He worked in the ANC underground inside South Africa until he and his fiancé (and later wife) Johanna (Jansie) Lourens were arrested in August 1983. During the same period Niehaus completed a degree in Industrial sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand. Carl and Jansie were found guilty of High Treason and he received a 15 year sentence while Jansie was sentenced to four years in prison.
Jansie served her full sentence and Niehaus served seven and a half years of his sentence. Carl and Jansie got married in prison. He did two degrees in theology through the University of South Africa and finished both Summa cum Laude.
By 1991, the process of dismantling apartheid had begun and Niehaus was released from prison in March 1991 following ANC negotiations with the previous Nationalist Party Government for the release of political prisoners. Immediately after his release Niehaus became the media liaison spokesperson for the ANC, and from 1992 until the General Election on 27 April 1994 he was head of the ANC's media liaison unit.
After having served for two consecutive terms on the Regional Executive Council (REC) of the ANC in Gauteng (the old PWV Region), Niehaus was elected at the ANC's National Conference in Bloemfontein (December 1994) to the National Executive Committee of the ANC. He also chaired the NEC's Commission on Religious Affairs.
In 1996, Niehaus was a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly. He chaired the Select Committee on Correctional Services, and also served on the Select Committee for Justice and Communication. The Transformation Forum on Correctional Service was also chaired by him.
Later in life, Niehaus was surrounded by controversy. His alleged degree in Industrial Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, and a PhD in Theology at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands raised much controversy. In 2009, it was revealed that Niehaus did not have a degree from the University of Utrecht and that he had in fact falsified additional information regarding his qualifications and work for the ANC. Niehaus claimed he obtained a doctoral degree in theology at Utrecht during his tenure as South Africa's ambassador in The Hague from 1997-2000.
Following an enquiry, a university official told the Beeld newspaper, "I can inform you that Mr Carl Niehaus had not obtained a doctorate in Theology in the period you mentioned."
In addition, allegations of fraud were brought against Niehaus, most of which he admitted to. He apparently convinced the owner of a travel agency to temporarily cover the expenses of a family holiday to Mauritius and when he was expected to repay the amount of money, he refused to do so. He was forced to resign from the ANC in February 2009.
Niehaus has also written an autobiography "Om te Veg vir Hoop". The book was translated into English and Dutch.
Carl Niehaus [online] Available at: www.anc.org. [Accessed on 17 November 2009]|Carl Niehaus [online] Available at: en.wikipedia.org [Accessed on 17 November 2009]|Carl Niehaus\'s litany of lies. Mail &Guardian. 17 February 2009. [online] Available at: www.mg.co.za[Accessed on 17 November 2009]|Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999).Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.|Carl Niehaus (1996), [Online]. Available at: https://www.anc.org.za/ [Accessed 20 November 2009]|Scholtz, L. Beeld,(2007). Niehaus lied over doctorate [Online]. Available at https://mybroadband.co.za [Accessed on 20 November 2009]|Mr Carl Niehaus [Online]. Available at https://www.whoswhosa.co.za/ [Accessed on 20 November 2009]
Unforgiven: The extraordinary tale of Carl Niehaus, CARIEN DU PLESSIS, 25 October 2017, Daily Maverick