Murunwa Makwarela Biography: A Political Journey Cut Short

Murunwa Makwarela Biography

Murunwa Makwarela, born in 1972, emerged as a multifaceted figure in South Africa, leaving a legacy that spans politics, academia, and business. His dynamic career was marked by both successes and controversies, shaping his identity as a prominent figure in the nation’s landscape.

Murunwa Makwarela

Personal details
Born 1972
Cullinan, Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
Died  (aged 51)
South Africa
Nationality South African citizenship
Political party Congress of the People (Until 2023)
Alma mater University of Venda (BSc)
University of Natal (BScHons, MSc)
University of the Witwatersrand (PhD)

Early Life 

Hailing from Cullinan, outside Pretoria, Makwarela spent his formative years in the village of Tshitereke within the Venda bantustan. His academic journey began at the University of Venda, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Botany and Zoology in 1994. Eager to delve deeper into the realms of science, he pursued further studies at the University of Natal’s Durban campus, earning an honors degree in Plant Biotechnology in 1995, followed by a Master of Science in Eucalyptus cold tolerance and tissue culture in 1997.

Makwarela’s thirst for knowledge led him to the University of the Witwatersrand, where he completed his doctorate in 2006. During this time, he conducted groundbreaking research at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Institute in Missouri, USA, solidifying his reputation as a skilled genetic engineer and academic.


Murunwa Makwarela’s professional trajectory encompassed a diverse array of roles, spanning academia, municipal governance, and corporate leadership. His journey, characterized by both accolades and controversies, sheds light on the complexities of public service and political engagement.

Makwarela commenced his career as a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand, delving into the realm of cassava genetic engineering from 2000 to 2005. His expertise led him to become the inaugural Divisional Head of Gene Banks at the Agricultural Research Council from 2005 to 2007, where he made significant contributions to agricultural science.

Transitioning to municipal administration, Makwarela served as the strategic executive director of the Agriculture and Environmental Management Department at the City of Tshwane between 2007 and 2012. His leadership in environmental stewardship and urban agriculture laid the groundwork for sustainable development initiatives within the municipality.

Corporate Leadership

Venturing into the private sector, Makwarela assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer at TAHAL South Africa, a subsidiary of the TAHAL Group, from 2012 to 2014. His tenure saw strategic advancements in infrastructure development and project management, positioning the company as a key player in the South African market.

In addition to his corporate endeavors, Makwarela co-founded and chaired Maluti Green Med, a pioneering cannabis-licensed pharmaceutical company based in Lesotho. His entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to innovation propelled the company to prominence in the burgeoning cannabis industry.

Makwarela’s political career unfolded against a backdrop of coalition politics and contentious governance issues. Appointed as the regional chairperson of the Congress of the People (COPE) in Tshwane in 2020, he swiftly rose to prominence within the party’s ranks.

Elected as the party’s sole proportional representation councillor in the City of Tshwane in the November 2021 local government elections, Makwarela assumed the role of council speaker in January 2022. His tenure, however, was marred by allegations of graft and sexual assault, which he vehemently denied.

Amidst political turmoil and power struggles, Makwarela faced challenges within the coalition government, particularly concerning the appointment of a new mayor. Despite his efforts to navigate the complexities of coalition dynamics, Makwarela encountered resistance and ultimately resigned from his position, leaving behind a legacy marked by resilience and determination in the face of adversity.

Murunwa Makwarela’s tenure as the Mayor of Tshwane was marked by both triumphs and tribulations, reflecting the complexities of political life in South Africa. His ascent to power, followed by a swift fall from grace, left an indelible mark on the political landscape, culminating in a tragic end.

Rise to Power

In a dramatic turn of events, Makwarela ascended to the position of Mayor of Tshwane during a council meeting on 28 February 2023. Nominated by the African Transformation Movement with support from the EFF and ANC, he secured victory in the mayoral vote, garnering the backing of 112 councillors against his opponent, Cilliers Brink.

Challenges and Removal

Makwarela’s tenure was short-lived, marred by legal and constitutional challenges. On 7 March 2023, he faced disqualification from office after it was revealed that he had been declared insolvent in 2016, violating constitutional provisions barring unrehabilitated insolvents from holding public office. Despite attempts to provide evidence of solvency rehabilitation, his credentials came under scrutiny, leading to his resignation as mayor and councillor.


On April 23, 2024, South Africa bid farewell to a pivotal figure in its political landscape, Murunwa Makwarela. At the age of 51, Makwarela’s life was tragically cut short by a brief illness, leaving behind a legacy marked by both triumphs and challenges.

Legacy and Impact

Murunwa Makwarela’s legacy embodies the complexities of leadership and the intersections between academia and politics. While his academic achievements and contributions to genetic engineering remain noteworthy, his political career underscores the challenges and controversies inherent in public service. As South Africa reflects on his life, Makwarela’s story serves as a testament to the complexities of human ambition and the pursuit of excellence in the face of adversity.

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