There are very few people in SA politics you could describe with the Yiddish word "mensch", meaning a person of high integrity and honour. For a long time, Gwede Mantashe was one of those people. Through his tenure at the helm of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and then afterwards as the secretary-general of the ANC, Mantashe was one of those people who seemed to place principle above narrow interests.

I have known Mantashe since the 1990s when I was a labour reporter and he was at NUM. He was argumentative but would still listen to those he disagreed with. As an SACP central committee member he could be doctrinaire, but would keep an open mind to the business community. He was a pragmatist. By night he studied for and passed his commerce degree from Unisa, and he took a master’s degree from Wits.

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