GWEDE MANTASHE was born in the village of Lower Cala in the Eastern Cape. He cut his teeth as an activist in the Student Christian Movement (SCM). Comrade Mantashe holds a Master’s degree from the University of Witwatersrand (WITS), acquired in 2008.
He joined the migratory labour force to eke out a living in the mining industry. Beginning his mining experience at Western Deep Levels mine in 1975 as a Recreation Officer and, in the same year, moved to Prieska Copper Mines where he was Welfare Officer until 1982. In 1982, he moved to Matla Colliery where he co-founded and became the Witbank branch chairperson of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a position he held until 1984. He was then elected NUM Regional Secretary in 1985. In recognition of his skills, comrade Mantashe became the NUM’s National Organiser from 1988 to 1993 and its Regional Coordinator between 1993 and 1994.
From 1994 to 1998, he served as the Assistant General Secretary of the NUM, whereupon he was elected as the first worker General Secretary at the union’s congress in 1998. He relinquished his position as the General Secretary of the NUM in May 2006 at the union’s 12th National Congress.
In 2006, after leaving the NUM, he was appointed as the Executive Manager: Strategic Initiatives at the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) where he was the Chairperson of the Technical Working Group of the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) for a period of two years.
Comrade Mantashe was elected Chairman of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 2007, and also served as a member of the Party’s Central Committee. At the 52nd National Conference of the ANC in Polokwane, December 2007, he was elected as the Secretary General of the ANC.
In 2012 at the 53rd National Conference of the ANC in Mangaung, he was re-elected as the Secretary General of the ANC, a position he held until the 54th National Conference of the ANC in Nasrec, where he was elected National Chairperson of the ANC.