Dr. Bonginkosi Emmanuel "Blade" Nzimande (born 14 April 1958) is a South African politician who has been Minister for Higher Education and Training since 2009. He has been the General Secretary of the South African Communist Party since 1998. He has a doctorate degree in philosophy specialising in sociology. He came out strongly against proposals for nationalisation at the COSATU conference in June 2011, stating that it is not "inherently progressive" as it depended on which class interests were being advanced.
Birth and family
Nzimande was born in Edendale near Pietermaritzburg, on 14 April 1958. "Blade" Nzimande was one of the three children of Nozipho Alice and Phillip Sphambano, a Shangaan herbalist from Mozambique.
Nzimande attended the Roman Catholic School, Henryville, and then Plessiers Lower Primary School before going to Mthethomusha School in Edendale, the first school in the area established under the new Bantu education system. He matriculated in 1975 at Georgetown High, Edendale.
While at school participated in youth clubs which were gatherings for cultural and sporting events, and were not particularly political in nature. He first became politically aware when Harry Gwala was released from Robben Island prison in 1973 and this was widely discussed in his community.
He completed his Psychology Honours degree at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, in 1980. His master's degree is in Industrial Psychology (1981) and more recently he has been awarded a PhD from the same university for a thesis titled ""The corporate guerrillas" : class formation and the African corporate petty bourgeoisie in post-1973 South Africa" in the field of Sociology.
In 1976 Nzimande enrolled at the University of Zululand to study towards a BA degree, majoring in Public Administration and Psychology. He became involved in student activity, including a food boycott and demonstrations against the award of an honorary doctorate to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi in May 1976. During that time the Black Consciousness Movement-oriented South African Students' Organization (SASO) was prominent on campus, but Nzimande's political views later shifter towards the Congress Alliance.
Following the shooting of demonstrating students in Soweto on 16 June 1976, the administration building of the university was burnt down and the university subsequently closed down for a period. Nzimande returned to university in 1977 and completed his degree in 1979. After graduating, he returned to Edendale and joined the Azanian Students’ Organisation (Azaso) which eventually broke away from the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), aligning itself with the Congress or Charterist tendency.
For Nzimande the shift from BCM to the Chartersist position was facilitated by weekly Zulu broadcasts from Radio Freedom and Radio Moscow. In this way he and his colleagues became acquainted with the policy of the African National Congress (ANC) and they started to receive underground ANC documents. While active in Azaso Nzimande completed his Honours and master's degrees.
In January 1982 Nzimande moved to Durban, and at that stage was active in the Dambuza Youth Organisation which affiliated to the United Democratic Front (UDF) after its launch in 1983.
In 1982 Nzimande undertook his internship in Industrial Psychology in the personnel department of Tongaat Hulett Sugar Ltd. There he met Jay Naidoo and began working informally with unions, addressing union seminars on job grading and other issues. He resigned his job in 1984.
Nzimande was the offered a post as a lecturer at the Umlazi branch of the University of Zululand where he founded the Department of Industrial Psychology on that campus. At the same time, he became increasingly involved with the trade unions and served on the editorial board of the South African Labour Bulletin in 1986. He also continued to assist with trade unions seminars teaching the history of trade unionism.
In Umlazi he began to work on educational issues in mid-1986 and also held clandestine Marxist study classes with the youth. Nzimande lectured until June 1987 and then joined the University of Natal, Durban to lecture in the Psychology Department. There he became involved in the Culture and Working Life Project, and initiated the cultural actitivities of the Dumbuzo Cultural Organisation which produced a play on violence, Koze Kube Nini (Until When?), performed in the townships. He also wrote various articles on violence, and assisted in the presentation of seminars.
Dr. Nzimande criticized the government of Thabo Mbeki and its economic policy, and he was vocal in his support for the removal of Mbeki as President of South Africa.
Nzimande began to attack President Kgalema Motlanthe in early January 2009. Saying he was part of the "old Mbeki crowd", senior ANC members loyal to Jacob Zuma called for Nzimande to become second Deputy President, alongside Baleka Mbete. President Motlanthe was also attacked by Nzimande because he fired Vusi Pikoli in 2008, and refused to sign the SABC bill, which would give the ANC full control of State Television.