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Professor Wilmot Godfrey James MP (born 5 July 1953) is a noted South African academic-turned-politician, who serves as the country's Shadow Minister of Health and as a Member of Parliament for the opposition Democratic Alliance,[1] and served as DA Federal Chairperson 2010-2015. He then contested for the post of party leader, but lost the election to Mmusi Maimane. James has served as director of Sanlam, Media24 and the Africa Genome Education Institute, and is the chairperson of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Immigration Advisory Board of South Africa. He is also a former Trustee of the Ford Foundation of New York.


Wilmot James

Dr Wilmot James MP.JPG
Shadow Minister of Health
In office
2014 – 1 June 2017
LeaderHelen Zille
Preceded byPatricia Kopane
Succeeded byPatricia Kopane
Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry
In office
Preceded byTim Harris
Succeeded byGeordin Hill-Lewis
Shadow Minister of Basic Education
In office
1 September 2010 – 1 February 2012
Preceded byJunita Kloppers-Lourens
Succeeded byAnnette Lovemore
Member of Parliament
for Western Cape
In office
6 May 2009 – 1 June 2017
Personal details
Born (1953-07-05) 5 July 1953 (age 66)
Paarl, Cape Province, Union of South Africa
NationalitySouth African
Political partyDemocratic Alliance
Spouse(s)Delecia Forbes
ChildrenGabriele James, Isabella James
Alma materUniversity of the Western Cape, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Yale University


Early yearsEdit

Wilmot James was born in Paarl on 5 July 1953, to Peter Charles James and Shelma Rumine Hartel. He attended Athlone High School, and matriculated in 1970.[2]

University and academiaEdit

James graduated from the University of the Western Cape in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts Honours cum laude. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in the United States, and attained his MSc from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1978, and a PhD from the same institution in 1982.[3] In 1985 he did a post doctoral fellowship at Yale University. He was a visiting fellow at Indiana University Bloomington in 1990, and a visiting fellow at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago in 1992.

In 1993 he moved to Cape Town to become Professor of Sociology at the University of Cape Town. He became Executive Director of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa in 1994, and served at IDASA until 1998. In 1999 he was appointed Dean of Humanities at the University of Cape Town.

James was appointed an Executive Director at the Human Sciences Research Council in 2001, a position he held until 2004.

In 2003 he was Moore Distinguished Visiting Professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.

In 2005 James was appointed Director of the Africa Genome Education Institute.

James is an Honorary Professor of Sociology (University of Pretoria) and Human Genetics (University of Cape Town).[4]

Other positionsEdit

In 2001, James was appointed Associate Editor at the Cape Argus newspaper, but left the paper later that year. In 2004 he became a Director at Naspers's Media24.

James served as a trustee of the Ford Foundation of New York between 1996 and 2009.


In 2009 James became a Member of Parliament with the Democratic Alliance, South Africa's opposition party.[5] He was appointed Shadow Minister of Higher Education, and later moved to the Basic Education portfolio. In 2010 he was elected federal chairperson of the party unopposed, a post he held for five years. He served as Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry for his party between 2012 and 2014,[6] and currently serves as Shadow Minister of Health.

In June 2017, Wilmot James left parliament for a professorship in the US focusing on global fight against infectious epidemics as an academic at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York.[7][8][9]


  1. ^ "National List MPs" (PDF).
  2. ^ "Prof Wilmot James".
  3. ^ "Dr Wilmot Godfrey James". People's assembly. 2017.
  4. ^ "Author focus". nb. 2017.
  5. ^ "Wilmot James". Who's Who. 2017.
  6. ^ "Dr Wilmot James". South Africa: Democratic Alliance. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  7. ^ "DA's Wilmot James leaves Parliament for US professorship". Times Live. 1 June 2017.
  8. ^ "DA's Wilmot James bows out of politics for now". Daily Maverick. 31 May 2017.
  9. ^ "???". News24. 1 June 2017.