Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile, the son of Simon Stofile and Miriam Ngcongcobela, was born on 27 December 1944, in the Winterberg District of Adelaide, Eastern Cape. He was raised on a farm by his parents.
Stofile matriculated from Newell High School in Port Elizabeth. After that he worked in a textile factory as a machine operator in Port Elizabeth from 1965 to 1968. He then left to study at the University of Fort Hare an obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1971 and a Bachelor of Theology (Honours) degree from the same university in 1974. This was followed by a Masters degree in Theology from University of Fort Hare (1979) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Technology from Tubingen in Germany (1981). Stofile then obtained a Masters of Arts degree from Princeton University in United States of America (1983). He was awarded a D.Phil (hc) by University of Port Elizabeth (2000).
During the three years of his studies, he straddled between his academic studies at Fort Hare and his pastoral and Church administration work at the Federal Theological Seminary in Alice. He taught Systematic Theology and Comparative Religious philosophies for fourteen years at the University of Fort Hare and for one year at the University of Transkei. During his teaching time at Fort Hare, he was accredited as a chaplain to students of various denominations. During this period he had become more and more alert to socio – political injustices though some members of the church were very uncomfortable with this stance. Since 1975 he has been a minister of the Presbyterian Church of South Africa.
Stofile entered politics in 1963 as a member of the African Students' Association, an African National Congress (ANC) front organisation but only came to the fore on the political front when he became the regional secretary and a member of the National Executive Committee of the United Democratic Front (UDF)between 1983 and 1986. He became a key person in the establishment and development of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the Border region.
In 1986 he was arrested by the then Ciskei police for his political activities. Convicted under the Ciskeian Internal Security Act , he was subsequently sentenced to 11 years imprisonment on May 1987 for "terrorism”. He was the most prominent UDF office bearer to have been convicted in an ANC-related trial.
The state had planned its case on alleged accomplices, but ended up having to rely on police evidence. His co-accused Mzwandile Ndlela was jailed for 15 years, and two other co-accuseds for eight years. Two of the "would be" state witnesses received four years for refusing to testify, three were charged with perjury and two could not be found to testify in court. The case of Arnold Stofile was an inspiring example of solidarity. Stofile was released by the Ciskei authorities in 1989, in an uncharacteristic gesture of goodwill, after serving only three years.
Politics is not the only area in which Stofile has attained great respect; he was also an accomplished sportsperson and administrator. He played scrum half at high school and was vice-captain of his rugby team. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he was the captain of his university team, playing in the positions of scrumhalf and wing. He was selected for the Border rugby team in 1969 and 1970 at inter-provincial tournaments as a hooker. Stofile has been involved in the administration of sport, especially rugby, cricket and netball since 1965.
Stofile was an early campaigner for non-racial sport. He was a major force behind the progressive South African Rugby Union (SARFU) where he served as vice president from 1990 to 1992. He also served as a provincial and national sports administrator for over twenty years in the Victoria East Rugby Union, the South Eastern District Rugby Union, Victoria East Council of Sport, South African Rugby Union (SARU), South African Council of Sport (SACOS), the National Sports Congress (NSC) and SARFU. In addition he also coached junior and club rugby, being a former player in the Border rugby team.
Stofile visited New Zealand in 1981 on behalf of the Anti-Tours Coalition led by the UDF. Representing the UDF, he went to New Zealand in 1985 where he led a successful campaign against the planned All Black tour of South Africa. His efforts caused him to be detained for four months on his return home.
When the ANC was unbanned, Stofile was elected to the position of chairperson of the Border region in 1990, leaving this post in 1991 to serve as a member of the Governing Council of the University of Fort Hare. Stofile was also the Chairperson of the Area Political Committee (Military Combat Work of the ANC) from 1979 to 1986.
In 1991, he was elected as a member of the NEC of the ANC, becoming its Treasurer General in 1994. In 1994 he became a Member of Parliament, as well as the chief whip of the ANC in Parliament. Stofile was the Chairperson of the (ANC) in the Eastern Cape since 1996. He was also appointed as treasurer general of the ANC in 1995, a post he held until 1997, when he became Premier of the Eastern Cape until 2004. In 2004 he entered cabinet again as the Minister of Sport and Recreation, a post which he held until 2010.
Reverend Stofile is married to Nambita and the couple has three children.