MEC for Transport, Safety and Security,
Mr Bheki Cele
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
"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
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".