Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was born on 3rd November 1955 in Claremont, Durban in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal). She matriculated from Ohlange High School in Inanda and enrolled with the National University of Lesotho for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science and Education. After graduating, she lectured at the Mpumalanga Teachers Training College, from 1980 to 1981 and taught at Ohlange High School from 1981 to 1983.
Mlambo-Ngcuka obtained qualifications in Gender policy and planning at the Development Planning Unit at the University College, London in 1988. She then obtained a Masters in Philosophy degree in Educational Planning and Policy from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2003. In 2003, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Witwatersrand Technikon.
When the Natal Organisation of Women (NOW), an affiliate of the United Democratic Front (UDF), was formed in December 1983, Mlambo-Ngcuka became the organisation’s first president. NOW spearheaded some of the UDF’s activities in Natal. Then from 1984, she worked as a youth director for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Board in Geneva, where she was involved in promoting the development of education in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Between 1987 and 1989, she was the director of TEAM, a development organisation based in Cape Town. There she was involved in serving women in informal settlements and African independent churches, promoting economic self-reliance and running skills training programmes. In 1990, Mlambo-Ngcuka started working for the World University Service South Africa (WUS), based in Cape Town, supporting organisations promoting literacy and rural development, and in university outreach to marginal communities.
Between 1993 and 1994, Mlambo-Ngcuka was a management consultant at Phumelela Services in Cape Town, where she was responsible for promoting race and gender sensitive organisational development, general change management, restructuring of institutions and linking change with productivity.
Around 1997 Mlambo-Ngcuka served as member of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress (ANC) as well as being the provincial vice-chairperson of the ANC Western Cape ANC Provincial Executive Committee. She also served as a member of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) Select Committee and chairperson of the Public Service Select Committee.
She was a board member of the Women’s Development Foundation, World University Services (a funding agency) and Just Exchange, a body that promotes export of Small, Medium and Macro Enterprises’ products to European Union (EU) countries.
Mlambo-Ngcuka initially became a member of parliament in 1994 chairing the Public Service Portfolio Committee. She was deputy minister in the Department of Trade and Industry from 1996 until 1999, during which time she also was a founding member of the Guguletu Community Development Corporation. Mlambo-Ngcuka was appointed as the Minister of Minerals and Energy in 1999, a position she held until 2005. She also briefly served as acting Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in 2004.
Mlambo-Ngcuka was appointed the Deputy President of South Africa in June 2005, when she replaced Jacob Zuma after he was dismissed from the post by the president Thabo Mbeki on allegations of corruption charges in 2005. She was the first woman to hold this position. In February 2006, as Deputy President she formally launched the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA), and the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) was established a month later to address scarce and critical skills needed to meet ASGISA's objectives.
Her term ended when then-president Thabo Mbeki was voted out as leader by the ANC at Polokwane in December 2007. She was succeeded by Baleka Mbete and soon stepped out of public life to focus on her studies and personal interests. Mlambo-Ngcuka has held the post of Chancellor of the Tshwane University of Technology, since 2 November 2007.
No longer involved in “any form of politics”, Mlambo-Ngcuka is involved with the Umlambo Foundation, which she established in 2008 to provide support to schools in impoverished areas through mentorship and coaching for teachers. Her vision is that the Foundation contributes towards the professional development of principals so that they can lead their schools to produce learners who will escape poverty. The foundation’s first intake was in 2009 and now supports 33 schools in all provinces.
Following her departure from politics, she enrolled for a PhD in education at Warwick University in the United Kingdom, where she was on study break until June 2011.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is married to Bulelani Ngcuka, former National Director of Public Prosecutions.
British Council, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa from the British Council Learning, [online], Available at www.britishcouncil.org. [Accessed on 11 August 2011]|Zweli Mokgata (2011), http://www.fm.co.za/Article.aspx?|Where are they now? - Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, from FM [online]. Available at www.fm.co.za [ Accessed on 11 August 2011]|Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, (2000), Women Marching into the 21st Century: Wathint’ Abafazi,(Shereno Printers), p.83-84|Whos, Who, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, from Whos Who Southern Africa, [online], Available at www.whoswhosa.co.za [Accessed on 11 August 2011]|Government Communication, Profile Information Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, from Government Communication and Information System, [online], Available at www.gcis.gov.za [Accessed on 11 August 2011]