Zacharia Solomon Shoke was born on 15 August 1956 in Alexandra Township, Johannesburg. Shoke received his education at Orlando High School, Soweto Township, south of Johannesburg. Other academic qualifications include a Diploma in Human Resources Management from Damelin, a Certificate in Defence Management from the University of the Witwatersrand and a Certificate in Personnel Management from IPM. Shoke joined Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), in the 1970s. In the 1980s he served as field commander during the liberation struggle against the South African government. He obtained his military training in Angola and completed the Brigade Commanders Course in the USSR. He became part of the underground leadership of Operation Vula in 1988. Between 1993 and 1994, Shoke followed an Intermediate Staff Course in Zimbabwe. In 1994 he was appointed as Director Personnel Planning of the SA Army. Three years later he was appointed Director of Integration when MK, APLA and SADF were merged to form the SANDF. In 1995/1996 he completed the Senior Command and Staff Course at the SA Army College and the Joint Staff Course in 1998. In 1998 he commanded the South African Development Countries forces during Operation Boleas in Lesotho.
He was the Director Personnel Acquisition from January 1999 to October 2000 when he was promoted to the rank of Major General as the Chief Director Human Resources Support. In June 2004 Lieutenant General Shoke was appointed as the Chief of the SA Army. Shoke is married to Charlotte and they have four children.