Born 1925 in Benoni, Alfred Nzo was shipped off to the Eastern Cape to attend a missionary school. By 1945 he was attending the politically active Fort Hare University – the same university Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo attended – and there joined the African National Congress Youth League. After his second year of study, he dropped out of university to work as a health inspector and dedicated his spare time to politics – until he was fired for his political involvement.
In 1956, Nzo was elected chairperson of the ANC branch in Alexandra and faced detainment, house arrest and a prison sentence. In 1963, the ANC sent him into exile to lobby for international support against the apartheid regime together with Oliver Tambo.
South African politician Alfred Nzo served as the ANC’s secretary-general from 1969 until 1991. During this time, Nzo was sent to various countries including Egypt, India, Zambia and Tanzania where he represented the ANC. Together with Oliver Tambo and others, Nzo acted as the ANC’s backbone – holding down the fort and propagating the party’s struggle while their comrades were imprisoned on Robben Island and in other prisons. Once the ban on the ANC was lifted and Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Nzo returned to his motherland.
At the ANC National Conference in South Africa in 1991, Nzo was elected the ANC's new secretary-general. Considered to be one of the ANC’s most senior men, Nzo was appointed the first Minister of Foreign Affairs in the post-apartheid government in 1994 after the democratic elections. He retired a few years later in 2000.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Nzo suffered a stroke and died the same year, at the age of 75.