Godfrey Mokgonane Pitje was born in 1917, in the northern Transvaal, the son of semiliterate Bapedi parents. Studious and able, he made his way to Fort Hare, where he graduated with a B.A. degree in 1944, later obtaining advanced degrees in anthropology, education, and law.

In 1948 he was invited to lecture in anthropology at Fort Hare, and, encouraged by A. P. Mda, a friend and fellow teacher, he joined politically minded students in establishing a Fort Hare branch of the Youth League. Pitje and members of the Fort Hare branch subsequently played a key role in pressing for adoption of the 1949 Programme of Action.

At the annual ANC conference of 1949, Mda resigned as ANC Youth League's president because of ill health, and Pitje was brought in as his successor. He was also elected to the African National Congress (ANC) national executive committee the same year. Although staunch in his nationalism, Pitje was not by nature inclined to politics, and the league lost momentum during his term of office.

In 1951 he was succeeded as president by Nelson Mandela and retired from active politics. When teaching lost appeal as a profession with the introduction of Bantu Education, Pitje took up law and served articles in the firm of Mandela and Tambo, qualifying as an attorney in 1959. He was subject to bans from 1963 until 1975, when leaders of the Lebowa "homeland" successfully appealed for an end to his restrictions.


Gerhart G.M and Karis T. (ed)(1977). From Protest to challenge: A documentary History of African Politics in South Africa: 1882-1964, Vol.4 Political Profiles 1882 ”“ 1964. Hoover Institution Pres: Stanford University.

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