For close to a decade, Panyaza Lesufi has been revolutionalizing the education system in Gauteng. He serves as the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Education of the province and has held on to the role since 2014. He is an elite member of the African National Congress (ANC) and Gauteng Provincial Legislature. He began his political journey in his formative years and was heavingly involved in the fight against the apartheid government.
Though his diverse works in government over the years have garnered criticisms from his oppositions, Lesufi is a recipient of multiple awards. He was honored with the University of Natal’s Chief Albert Luthuli Award by the former South African president, Thabo Mbeki. Gauteng residents have also praised him for his impact on their education system. Below are 10 facts you should know about Panyaza Lesufi, including his early life, family, and career accomplishments.
1. His Real Name is Andrek Lesufi
The famed political figure’s real name is Andrek Lesufi. However, having been endowed with incredible football skills, which he displayed on multiple occasions while growing up, he was given the moniker “Panyaza.” The 54-year-old was born on September 4th, 1968, in Edenvale, part of Transvaal Province in South Africa. Lesufi grew up in Tembisa, South Africa.
2. He is a Graduate of The University of Natal
Although Panyaza Lesufi completed his basic education at Boitumelong Senior Secondary School, he attended more than one elementary school. He first enrolled at Tiamatlama Lower Primary School before proceeding to Tshepisa Higher Primary School. He achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Natal, and there, he equally earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration.
3. Political Activist Nikisi Lesufi is Panyaza’s Brother
After Lesufi’s birth in Edenvale, his family was banished from the area based on the apartheid-era Group Areas Act. As a result, they relocated to Tembisa. His parents’ identities and details about his other siblings are unknown, except for Nikisi Lesufi. Nikisi is Panyaza’s elder brother who motivated him to participate in anti-apartheid activities.
He attended the University of the North, and there, he championed his fight against the apartheid government through his works as the student leader of the university. Consequently, Nikisi Lesufi spent some time in prison. He later got away from prison and then left South Africa. He eventually became a bonafide member of the African National Congress (ANC).
4. Lesufi’s Marital Status Has Been Under the Radar
Gauteng MEC for Education has been in the limelight for a lengthy period, and to the amazement of the public, nothing is known about his wife and children. On one occasion, he stated publicly that those opposing his political career were threatening his life and going after his children. That was all he has so far revealed about his family life. It’s apparent that Panyaza Lesufi is a father, but there is a degree of uncertainty surrounding his marital status. It’s yet unknown whether he is still married or divorced.
5. He Ventured Into Politics While in Secondary School
As a student of Boitumelong Secondary School, Panyaza got involved in politics and participated in grassroots movements. As such, he joined the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) and became the leader. The organization was subsequently banned. As a result, he became a member of the Tembisa Student Congress (TESO). He was also among the National Education Crisis Committee and a member of the South African Student Congress (SASCO). During his days on campus, Panyaza Lefusi emerged as the president of the University of Natal’s SRC.
6. He Has Been a Member of The Gauteng Provincial Legislature Since 2014
As one of the pioneer members of the African National Congress, Panyaza Lesufi took part in structuring the party. For three tenures, he served as the chairman of the now-defunct ANC Tembisa branch. Afterward, he was elected the deputy regional secretary of the ANC Kyalami branch. Then in 2007, he became a member of the party’s Provincial Executive Committee and has held on to the role since then. The popular political figure was voted in as ANC’s deputy provincial chairperson in June 2018.
In the past years, he had worked for Bavumile Vilakazi, the first mayor of Ekurhuleni as a spokesman and was equally associated with the Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa. He was also part of the team that established the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) alongside the Minister of Social Development, Zola Skweyiya. Panyaza Lesufi was elected a member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature in 2014. Afterward, he was appointed Gauteng MEC for the Department of Basic Education by the Premier, David Makhura, in May 2014
7. Lesufi Served as The MEC For Finance and e-Government For Only a Day
In May 2019, Panyaza Lesufi was named Gauteng MEC for Finance and e-Government but only lasted in that position for just one day following his reinstatement as the Gauteng MEC for Education after the public clamored for him to return to his previous role. For a brief period between November 2019 and June 2020, Lesufi additionally served as the acting Gauteng MEC for Social Development while also working as the MEC for Education due to the demise of Thuliswa Nkabinde-Khawe, who held the role from May 30th, 2019, to November 1st, 2019.
8. His Greatest Achievements in Office
Since working as the Gauteng Education MEC, Lesufi has displayed outstanding leadership qualities that have greatly shaped the Education Department in the province. He has built new public institutions in Gauteng, and three new schools were launched ahead of the 2021 session. He has also revolutionized the education system by changing the school placement process, which favored white children over black for several years.
Additionally, in July 2017, the South African politician suspended the hair policy at Windsor House Academy situated in Kempton Park. He demanded that the school should change its hair policy, and his timely intervention was applauded by parents. With his commendable efforts in Gauteng Education Department, Lesufi has left a legacy in the sector.
9. The Political Figure Has Been Incarcerated Twice
As an activist in his youthful days, the 54-year-old politician hugely participated in anti-apartheid activities. As a result, he was handed a jail sentence in 1988 for disobeying the state of emergency regulations. He briefly spent some time at the Modderbee Prison. Once again, Panyaza Lesufi was reportedly sentenced to the Durban City Prison in 1995, and there, he served a brief sentence.
10. His Works Have Garnered Criticisms From Oppositions
Throughout his career, Lesufi has been involved in multiple controversies. In 2020, he was accused of influencing the awarding of a tender worth R30 million to In2IT Technologies by Adv Anton Alberts. However, in July 2021, the public protector released a statement citing that the Gauteng education MEC was not involved in any procurement process of the SOC tender. Also, since 2019, the lobby group, AfriForum, has been campaigning for his removal from his position based on how he has been handling the school placement process.
The online placement system in Gauteng has faced many problems in the last few years. In 2019, over 14,000 prospective grade 1 and grade 8 pupils had issues with school placement in the province. Then in November 2020, out of the 222,275 candidates that applied for placement for the 2021 academic year, 181,119 got placed in schools, and over 40,000 grades 1 and 8 pupils were not placed in schools at the time. However, Panyaza promised parents that none of their children would be left out of school, and the education department has been working effortlessly to tackle the problem.
He stated that the classrooms in Gauteng could accommodate the applicants, but the issue is that people opt for fewer schools that they categorize as the best schools. To solve the problem, new schools have been built, and some schools have been given funds to build additional classrooms.