Josiah Khiphusizi Jele was born on 1 May 1930, in Alexandra, Johannesburg. He was a son to Joseph Jele and Alvinah Khanyile Jele.Like many black South Africans, Jele was exposed to the harsh conditions of colonialism and apartheid at an early age. His home-town was characterised by grinding poverty, police harassment whilst enforcing apartheid laws, unemployment and many other social injustices faced by black people. It was these experiences among other factors that drove Jele to join the fight against apartheid.
In 1950, at an age of 20 Jele joined the African National Congress (ANC) and actively recruited cadres into the movement. As a consequence he was arrested and detained between 1964 and 1965. Upon his release, he left the country for exile at the advice of the ANC leader Oliver Tambo. Jele then did his tertiary education at the Institute of Social Science in Moscow, Russia and at Tashkent & Odessa Military Academies.
Between 1967 and 1968, he served as the ANC’s political commissar in Tanzania- a political education and recreation officer in the ANC’s armed wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe(MK). He also wrote and edited the MK journal, Dawn. During this time, Jele also represented the ANC at meetings of the OAU Liberation Committee. In May 1967, Jele led a group of MK cadres to Northern Mozambique to explore possible infiltration routes in preparation for Wankie and Spolilo Campaigns. His unit was to seek a passage via Mozambique to the north eastern corner of the Republic South Africa. Prior embarking on their mission, Jele had a brief meeting with Joachim Chissano, chief representative in Tanzania of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) about dangerous and free areas in Mozambique.
An all-rounder with huge experience, Jele became the ANC Director of Broadcasting where he planned and directed broadcasts from 1969 to 1970. During this time, he also researched and analysed political developments in South Africa and internationally. In 1970 to 1971 Jele was secretary for the African Affairs-World Peace Council in Helsinki, Finland. He formulated and executed policy on matters, which included development, apartheid, security, and independence. In addition, he enriched the discourse of the time by participating in international and regional conferences. He also continued to produce articles and edited two newsletters: Focus on Africa and The Peace Courier, which covered events and activities of peace committees in Africa and other parts of the world, respectively.
On his return Jele was based in Lusaka, Zambia, where he was appointed as the ANC Director of International Affairs from 1978 to 1983. During this term, he advised on international policy and relations, and planned, directed and co-ordinated the diplomatic and solidarity work of the chief representatives. Putting his experience to diplomatic use, he negotiated with governments the establishment of missions and recommended the appointment of chief representatives. After serving in the above said capacity, he became Secretary in the ANC’s Political Military Council.
After the unbanning of ANC, Jele returned to South Africa. He was appointed as South Africa's first Ambassador and Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations (UN), New York, in February 1995. Among his crowning achievements as the Ambassador of a democratic South Africa, he successfully lobbied UN member states for the election of South African candidates to various UN bodies, for instance Judge Navi Pillay to the UN International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda and Prof. John Dugard to the UN Law Commission.
He participated in the South African delegation to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development IX in Midrand. He also assumed the vice-presidency of the General Assembly, and the chairpersonship of the Bureau of Non-Aligned Countries, and chaired meetings of the African Group of Ambassadors and the Southern African Development Community Ambassadors group.
Jele also continued to contribute to the intellectual debate within the ANC until his retirement from active politics. In 2004, he survived an attempted murder by unknown attackers at his home in Johannesburg.
The Presidency, ‘Jasiah Jele 1930’,[online], Available at www.thepresidency.gov.z[Accessed: 30 November 2011]|Cohen E. (2008), ‘Khuphusizi Josiah Jele’, from Geni, 24 February, [online], Available at www.gen.com[Accessed 30 November 2011]|Who is who in the Southern Africa, ‘Khiphusizi Jele’, [online], Available at www.whoswhosa.co.za[Accessed: 30 November 2011]|Mamoepa, R, (2004), ‘Minister Dlamini Zuma's Statement on the Attempted Murder of Josiah Jele, Former South African Ambassador to the UN’, from International Relations and Cooperation: Republic of South Africa, [online] Available at www.dfa.gov.za[Accessed: 01 December 2011]