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Joe Slovo

SLOVO, JOE (1926–1995), South African politician. Slovo was born in Lithuania and taken to South Africa when he was eight. After war service, he graduated in law at Witwatersrand University. In 1942 he joined the Communist Party, but after it was outlawed he was arrested and detained on several occasions in the 1950s and 1960s. He was one of the accused in the 1956–61 Treason Trial, which ended with charges being dropped or acquittal for all 156 defendants. He was one of the drafters of the Freedom Charter, the African National Congress's non-racist manifesto of 1955, and helped to organize the Congress's guerrilla wing, serving as its chief of staff. He worked from countries neighboring South Africa. Slovo was the first white appointed to the Congress's national executive (1985). In 1986 he became secretary general of the South African Communist Party. After 27 years of exile he returned to South Africa in 1990 and played a leading role in the negotiations leading to the transition from white minority rule to multiracial democracy in April 1994. He was appointed as the first minister of housing in the post-apartheid South African government under Nelson Mandela, a position he held for six months before dying of cancer early in 1995. His autobiography, SlovoThe Unfinished Autobiography, appeared posthumously later that same year.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.