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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Matthews, Vincent Joseph (Joe)

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Joe Matthews, son of Z K Matthews, was born in June 1929 and was brought up in politically and intellectually sophisticated surroundings. He was drawn into the new ANC Youth League by Oliver Tambo when he was at St Peter's Secondary School in Johannesburg. In 1948 he went to Fort Hare where he became secretary of the Youth League branch, and from which he graduated with a BA in English and History. It was in these years that he came into contact with Nelson Mandela and Mangosuthu Buthelezi. After his graduation in 1950 he moved to Johannesburg to study law at the University of the Witwatersrand.

In 1952 he left his studies to join the Defiance Campaign in the Cape, during which time he was the national secretary of the Youth League. He received a nine-month suspended sentence for his leadership role in the campaign. He was banned from membership in the ANC the next year, shortly after being elected as national president of the Youth League. He resumed his studies, through correspondence with the University of London, while doing his articles in Port Elizabeth. His studies were interrupted in 1956 because of the treason arrests and he was a defendant in the trial in Pretoria until late 1958.

Matthews joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1957 and served on its central committee from 1962 to 1970. He left the party after developing doubts as to whether the ideology would work in practice.

He escaped to Lesotho, where he got involved in local politics, after the Sharpville emergency. In 1965 the South African government prevented him from re-entering Lesotho after an overseas trip, so he moved to London, where he completed his Master's thesis on aspects of the early history of the ANC and worked as managing editor of Sechaba. He gave up active involvement in the ANC when he moved to Botswana in 1970. There he worked in the Office of the President and as an assistant Attorney General before opening a private law practice and returning to the United Kingdom in 1984.

He returned to South Africa in 1991 and in 1992 was appointed chief executive officer of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). He served as spokesperson for the IFP and attended the multi-party negotiations in April 1993. Matthews was elected to parliament in the 1994 general election. He was appointed Deputy Minister of Safety and Security in the government of national unity, a post he remained in until after the 1999 elections.

Sources: Karis, T. and Carter, G.M. 1977. From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964, Volume 4. Hoover Institution Press: Stanford. p 79


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