Premier Ace Magashule was born as Elias Sekgobelo Magashule in 1959 at Tumahole, Parys. Growing up, he was actively involved in drama, soccer and boxing. Magashule played midfield in his day and wore Number 8. His prowess on the soccer field earned him the nickname “Ace” – a name that stuck to this day.
Magashule found a natural home in the struggle against apartheid. By the time he enrolled at the University of Fort Hare, where he studied for a Bachelor of Arts, he was already a committed activist. He became a founder member of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) in 1979. Whilst a student, he was arrested and charged with high treason in 1982 and was subsequently detained several times under the Internal Security Act. Magashule was also held in solitary confinement for nine months in 1985. In an interview with the Sunday Independent in 2008, Magashule reflected that; “”I can assure you that Section 29 is serious torture.”
His career as a teacher at Moqhaka High School in Sebokeng and Phehellang High School in Parys probably laid the foundation for his continued interest and encouragement of young people to actively pursue their studies. Since 1984, his efforts in assisting needy students to raise funds to pursue their studies at tertiary institutions throughout the country are well-known.
Politically, Magashule was mentored by Chris Hani and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. He participated in the founding of the United Democratic Front in the 1980’s. After spending some time in exile, Magashule became the chairperson of the ANC’s Northern Free State region after the unbanning of the ANC. After the merger of the ANC’s northern and southern regions in 1994, Magashule continued to hold key leadership positions. Having repeatedly been elected as the provincial chairperson, he has become the longest serving ANC Provincial Chairperson. As provincial ANC chairperson, he served in an ex officio capacity in the ANC’s National Executive Committee and this has also led to him being one of the longest serving members of the National Executive Committee. At the ANC’s 2008 Polokwane conference, he was directly elected as an additional member to the National Executive Committee.
Following the historic 1994 elections, Magashule served in the first Free State Provincial Executive Council as the MEC responsible for Economic Affairs and Tourism. Throughout the years, he served in Parliament and only returned to the Free State Legislature following the 2004 general elections. His gained experience in the portfolios of Agriculture, Transport, Public Safety, Security and Liaison as well as Sport, Arts and Culture. He has also served as the Chief Whip of the Free State Legislature. Magashule was elected Premier during the inauguration of the Free State Legislature on 6 May 2009.