MEC for Transport, Safety and Security, Mr Bheki Cele


Bheki Cele was born on April 22, 1952 to Albertina Mtshali and Gillford Cele at uMzumbe Mission near Port Shepstone. When he was only nine months old, his twenty-year old mother passed away.

Cele was raised by his father, a senior Induna at the South African Railways.

While in high school, Cele's father also passed away. Cele had to go through high school raising funds by working one year and completing the next class until he became a qualified teacher.

"I remember when I was doing matric, I only had one shirt but was the cleanest in the class. The teachers asked me if I had a new shirt for everyday, and were amazed when I told them that I only had one shirt and washed it every evening," he says.

Cele was raised by relatives and moved between uMzumbe and Lamontville. The difference between the poverty in the rural areas, the lack of resources in the townships and the wealth he saw in the City of Durban led directly to Cele's politicization.

"My father started at the bottom of the railway hierarchy and worked his way up. By the time he met his death, he was the second in command of the compound where he worked. After his death I had nothing," he recalls.

When Cele completed his high schooling, he approached his father's supervisor for financial aid to study law. "Although he was my father's friend, he told me that he could unfortunately not assist me as bursaries were reserved for the children of white employees. I could not understand that, how could you give financial aid to those that have, and deny it to those that really need it," he said.

This was in early 1980's at the height of the township struggles led by newly formed United Democratic Front. Cele found a home with the UDF, and in Lamontville founded youth organizations aligned to the ANC.

After completing his teachers' diploma, Cele taught at Mbumbulu schools and joined the ANC underground structures under the leadership of Jacob Zuma. Together with the likes of Mathew Goniwe, Cele was instrumental in the founding of the National Education Union of South Africa, a predecessor to the South African Democratic Teachers Union.

It was in 1984 that Cele's activities caught the attention of the security police and they came for him. He jumped out of the school yard and was on his way to Angola where he joined the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe.

Cele was infiltrated back into the country, but was captured by the security police in 1987 and was imprisoned on Robben Island, until he was released in 2001. "It was the most amazing time of my life. I can proudly say that from 1984 to 2001, I never carried a cent in my pocket yet never went to bed without food, or stayed without clothes," he says. 

On his release, Cele continued his involvement with the ANC and was elected into various leadership positions. He was entrusted by the leadership to coordinate the organisation's security and peace initiatives. In 1994, Cele was elected onto the organisation's Provincial Executive Committee. 

Cele is presently Chairperson of the ANC's eThekwini Region, the organisation's biggest and a member of its Provincial Executive Committee.

Since 1994 he has been serving as a member of the provincial legislature on the Safety and Security portfolio committee. Before his appointment as Transport, Safety and Security MEC, Cele held the powerful position of Chairperson of Portfolio Committees Chairpersons Committee in the provincial legislature.

Since his appointment, Cele has had a busy schedule, meeting with senior management in the transport department and senior police officers to create synergy between the two departments. He has also thrown himself into the deep end of the taxi conflict taking direct control of the conflict between the Stanger and the Maphumulo Taxi Owners Associations. 

"Transport, Safety and Security are just two sides of the same coin. When criminals commit a crime, they plan around being mobile so that they can easily get away from the scenes of the misdeeds. It is pointless to give a speeding criminal a speeding ticket, they should be arrested and it will only happen when the police and traffic officers work hand in glove," he said

For Cele, the ultimate achievement would be when people start trusting public transport such that they leave their own vehicles at home, preferring to take public transport to work. He was wants to ensure that the weakest in our society, including the disabled, women and children enjoy the best of state protection against what he refers to as "predators that must be removed from our society".