Neville Gabriel was born in Durban. He completed a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree (1991) at the University of Cape Town. After a year’s retreat and community service in an impoverished rural village in the north of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, he returned to studies at both the University of Natal (philosophy) and St Joseph’s Theological Institute (theology) concurrently, graduating with Honours in Social Sciences (cum laude) from the University of Natal (1995).
He then worked as a national youth worker before joining the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) in establishing its South African Parliamentary Liaison Office in 1997.
While serving in that office as a researcher, he co-founded the Jubilee 2000 South Africa coalition for debt cancellation and economic justice as part of the global Jubilee movement. He served variously as national secretary, national executive committee member and spokesperson of Jubilee 2000, between 1998 and 2003. He pioneered an economic justice programme for the SACBC as its Secretary for Economic Justice.
In 2001 he was appointed as director of the SACBC Justice and Peace Department, leaving that post in 2005. During that time he was a leading role-player in developing the Alliance for Justice and Peace in Southern Africa (AJPSA) that included 10 Southern African countries, and in establishing the Denis Hurley Institute for International Solidarity and Peace with an Africa-wide mandate.
He also pioneered the establishment of a Southern African regional trade justice programme for AJPSA. In 2005 he joined Oxfam, coordinating its southern African regional media and advocacy work as part of its regional senior management team, before being appointed to his current post as the executive director of the Southern Africa Trust. He is also a non-executive director of the African Forum on Debt and Development (AFRODAD), a member of the board of the Goedgedacht Forum for Social Reflection, and a senior fellow of the Synergos Institute. Having served as a non-executive director of several civil society organisations, he was a founding trustee of the Southern Africa Trust and a founding non-executive director of the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN). For several years, he was rated by South Africa’s Financial Mail as one of the country’s most influential black citizens in the development sector.