The late Mluleki George addressing a news conference at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg as the senior vice-president of the SA Rugby Football Union. Picture: ARENA HOLDINGS ARCHIVES
The late Mluleki George addressing a news conference at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg as the senior vice-president of the SA Rugby Football Union. Picture: ARENA HOLDINGS ARCHIVES

Former deputy defence minister and founding member of COPE, Mluleki George has died at the age 72 in East London due to Covid-19 complications.

Apart from his leading role in sport, George was also active in politics, being a founder member of the anti-apartheid organisation the United Democratic Front established in 1983. He joined the ANC in 1972 and in 1978 was sentenced to five years on Robben Island for his political activities.

George was elected as an MP after the first democratic elections and served as deputy defence minister from 2004 to 2008.

He broke away from the ANC in 2008 after the Polokwane conference, which elected Jacob Zuma as ANC president, to form COPE under leader Mosiuoa Lekota. George became treasurer-general of COPE.

George and Lekota resigned from the ANC after being suspended ahead of a disciplinary hearing.

“George was very vocal at the Polokwane conference, warning the delegates that the ANC was taking a wrong direction and with Zuma as the leader — he will not only destroy the ANC but the entire country, but the delegates did not want to listen and Zuma was elected,” a statement by COPE said.

“We can never forget the huge contribution that comrade George made in our struggle to free this country. What we enjoy today is because of the selfless sacrifices that comrade George made.”

George played a prominent role in Eastern Cape sport in the 1980s and 1990s and was central to the unification of SA sport after the demise of apartheid.

He served as president of the National Sports Council (NSC) and United Border Rugby Union from 1991 to 2001. He also served as vice-president of the SA Rugby Football Union (Saru) from 1993 until 1998; and was the interim chair for the first year of the SA Football Association’s (Safa) existence between 1991 and 1992. He was also on the International Rugby Board from 1994 to 1997.

George’s death follows the deaths last week of former Athletics SA president Leonard Chuene and former Kaizer Chiefs captain Johannes “Ryder” Mofokeng.

With TimesLIVE

ensorl@businesslive.co.za 

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