Series of Firsts: Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri


Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri was South Africa’s first female president. In fact, she was president on two different occasions: once for 4 days, and again three years later for 14 hours. She was one of our country’s ministers selected to take over when both the president and his deputy were simultaneously indisposed or outside our borders.

In addition to being South Africa’s acting president she also boasts several other highlights on her incredible CV:

–          She holds the title of also being the first woman and first black chairperson of Sentech;

–          She is the first woman to be appointed as a board member of the CSIR;

–          She is the first woman premier in the country.

But that’s not all.

Besides being the Minister of Communication of the South African government for an entire decade (1999-2009), she was chairperson of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) before that too – the first non-white and first female to do so!

Aged 55 with a PhD in Sociology from a University in New Jersey as well as her BA degree from Fort Hare, Dr Matsepe-Casaburri led the board of the SABC. The public broadcaster supplied 18 radio stations and 3 TV channels to the country at the time of her tenure.

In her early years she moved from her birth place Kroonstad, Free State to attend primary school in Kwazulu Natal. She then moved to the Eastern Cape to complete her degree and returned to KZN for a teaching position. Soon after and as an active member of the ANC, she went into exile to Swaziland (where she taught for 12 years), Zambia, America and Namibia during the apartheid era. She finally returned home safely in 1990. With many destinations reached, this woman’s elaborate geographical journey certainly matches her trailblazing professional journey.

In 2009, her career came to an adrupt halt when she passed away at the age of 71 while still actively serving as the Minister of Communications. To light a candle in her memory, please visit her online memorial at