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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Yengeni, Tony Sithembiso

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Tony Yengeni was born in 1954 and grew up to become a supporter of the Black Consciousness movement under the leadership of Steve Biko before joining the outlawed ANC in 1976. In the wake of the Soweto student uprising and the subsequent government crackdown on anti-apartheid organisations, Mr Yengeni went into temporary exile as a member of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. He went for military training in ANC camps in Botswana, Zambia and Angola before studying for a social science diploma in Moscow.

Upon his return to Southern Africa, he became the regional secretary for the South African Council of Trade Unions (SACTU), based in Lesotho.

He was appointed by the ANC as leader of its armed wing in the Western Cape, but almost as soon as he returned to the Cape he was arrested by the National Party (NP) government in 1987 and spent four years in prison while awaiting trial for terrorism.

During his detention, Yengeni was tortured by former anti-terrorist squad policeman Jeffrey Benzien, who subsequently boasted to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he had perfected his "wetbag" interrogatory torture method, guaranteed to produce results in under 30 minutes.

Yengeni was never successfully prosecuted by the apartheid state and was finally granted indemnity as part of the political transition process in 1991.

On his release from prison he became general secretary of the ANC in the Western Cape, and briefly engaged in the race to lead the party in the region before it was decided that the ANC's interests would be better served by a mixed-race or "coloured" leader, as the coloured population forms the majority in the province. He dropped out of the race.

Tony Yengeni cultivated a militant leadership style, joining other ANC populists like Winnie Madikizela Mandela and ANC youth leader Peter Mokaba to whip up support for the ANC in the lead-up to the 1994 elections.

He was characterised as one of the ANC's young lions and after the elections was rewarded for his dedication and hard work with the influential position as chair of parliament's Joint Standing Committee for Defence, the body which plays a key role in decisions relating to South Africa's arms purchases. He was also appointed chief whip of the ANC.

He was accused, by opposition member of parliament Patricia de Lille in late 1999, of receiving a car as a gift when she queried kick-backs and corruption linked to the government's controversial R43 billion ($5 billion) arms procurement deal in late 1999. He was subsequently found guilty of corruption by a court of law and his case is pending appeal. He was suspended from his portfolio in government.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.