NEWS & ANALYSIS

Cyril Ramaphosa's eulogy to Zola Skweyiya

President says late former public service minister struggled for a better, efficient and compassionate public service

EULOGY BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA DURING THE FUNERAL OF DR ZOLA SIDNEY THEMBA SKWEYIYA, CHRISTIAN REVIVAL CHURCH

PRETORIA

21 APRIL 2018

Our beloved sister, Mrs Thuthukile Skweyiya,

Former President Thabo Mbeki and Mrs Zanele Mbeki

Friends and family of the Skweyiya and Mazibuko families,

Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Fellow Mourners,

An ambassador of goodwill, a servant of his people and a courageous son of our soil has departed.

When we recall the consummate love, graceand humility of Zola Skweyiya, we are reminded of the immeasurable capacity of human beings for goodness.

In a world that is riven by conflict and greed, we were comforted to have living among us a person like Zola Skweyiya.

We were heartened by his moral clarity and by his steadfast commitment to democracy, justiceand peace.

Here was a noble man who would never dare sell the birthright of his people, a man who would choose death rather than betray the trust of his people.

Here was a man who shared the desire of a billion people for an Africa resurrected and free.

Here was a man who shared the dreams of thedispossessed, the marginalised and the suffering.

Though he has departed, we will continue to draw strength and inspiration from his example.

In the glory of his sunshine our day will be filled with his light and from his soil shall rise new shoots of opportunity, prosperity and better life for all.

As we fold the flag that now covers him, we will commend his spirit to the founding father of our nation and hand over the work of his hand to his family and future generations as a symbol of honour to his service and love for country.

Fellow South Africans,

Since Zola Skweyiya has passed away there has been an outpouring of grief and expressionsof admiration from many South Africans and from people across the world.

At the memorial service held earlier this week, friends and comrades who grew up with him spoke fondly of his deep care for the downtrodden and vulnerable.

They shared their memories of a revolutionaryand disciplined cadre of the African National Congress who valued the unity of his people and cherished the ideal of an egalitarian society.

Those who were fortunate to work with him in exile and in government reminded us of ZolaSkweyiya’s work ethic, his collegiality and passion to develop people who worked with him.

They described him as an architect of ademocratic, efficient and inclusive public service that was built from the ruins of a fragmented, divisive and decadent administration.

They recalled the superb mind that formed many of the fundamental constructs of ourConstitution.

From his grandchildren, we heard that he was deeply cherished and loved unconditionally by his family, for whom his passing remains a devastating blow. 

On behalf of all South Africans, we extend ourprofound sympathies to both the Skweyiya and Mazibuko families on so great a loss.

We will miss his gentle and caring hand as we continue draw guidance from the collective wisdom of our stalwarts to renew our country and revitalise our organisation.

As he would have wished, we will intensify our struggle for the complete restoration of the dignity of our people.

We will intensify our struggle to return the land to the people and build an inclusive economy that benefits all South Africans.

As he often reminded us, the aim of the national liberation struggle is the democratisation of the country and the redistribution of its wealth.

It is a struggle to eradicate the privileges of the few and to entrench human rights as the basis of our democratic dispensation.

In paying tribute to his old friend, Albie Sachs recently described Zola Skweyiya as a natural democrat.

He credits the outstanding leadership of Zola Skweyiya in bringing to life our Constitution.

Alongside people of the calibre of Jack Simons,Kader Asmal, Brigitte Mabandla and Arthur Chaskalson, he forged a constitutional legacy that will define our country for generations to come.

In all tasks that he was given, he made a difference.

When former President Nelson Mandela entrusted Zola Skweyiya with the formidable challenge of transforming the oppressive apartheid machinery into a developmental state that would serve all South Africans, he undertook his responsibility with purpose.

He said:

“Public services are not a privilege in a civilised and democratic society: they are a legitimate expectation.”

In his view, the test for a transformed, efficient public service lay in the practical difference people see in their lives.

His was struggle for a better, efficient and compassionate public service.

It is a tribute to Zola Skweyiya’s vision that we today have a public service of more than amillion people who dedicate themselves to building a better life for all our people.

It is a public service that reflects the diversity of our nation.

It is our responsibility to ensure that the public service retains the character that Zola Skweyiya envisioned and embraces the values that he espoused.

In all that we do, we must answer the simple question that he asked of us time and time again: ‘Are we putting our people first?’

It was a question that he occupied his tenure as Minister of Social Development.

He was the architect of our progressive social assistance programme, which has been responsible for substantially pushing back the frontiers of poverty.

For him, this task was much more than a transformative policy intervention.

It was a passion, a mission, a sacred responsibility.

He was deeply shocked by the conditions under which so many of our people lived and was determined that the democratic state mobilise all resources at its disposal to lift our people out of the agony of poverty.

He travelled the length and breadth of the country to ensure that all grant recipients received what was due to them.

He relentlessly championed the child support grant, which had a significant and measurable impact on the health, well-being and prospects of an entire generation of young people.

Thanks to his work, more children have survived, more children have thrived and more children have been able to attend school.

He achieved all of this without fanfare, without spectacle.

He did it quietly, methodically and with determination.

He embodied and cherished the values of consultation, consensus-making, trust-buildingand cooperation.

In negotiations, he was firm of persuasion and principle, with the acumen and strategic craft to know when, how and why to accommodate the demands of an apartheid state that was negotiating its way into the setting sun.

Comrades and friends,

It is deeply distressing to recall that in the twilight of his life, this gallant member of the Luthuli Detachment was, by his own account,stopped at the doors of Luthuli House when he wanted to meet the leadership.

Such was the pain and disappointment of thiscadre who gave his life to our organisation that he said: “Here I am and I don’t even know where the ANC is.”

As President of the Republic and the African National Congress, I wish to join Deputy President Mabuza in saying we regret this shameful departure from the principles, values and ways of our movement.

To this departed warrior of Umkhonto we Sizwe, his family and all our stalwarts, please accept our sincere apology for the distress that thismay have caused.

Today, we make a solemn commitment that never again will we disown and dishonour those who have dedicated their lives to the movement and the cause of our people.

We can be certain that Zola Skweyiya would have been concerned about the violent protests that have seized the North West in the last few days.

Like the violence that he confronted in the early 1990s, such violence can only serve the interests of those opposed to transformation and the progress of our people.

In the memory of our distinguished stalwart, let us unite and resist those who wish to delay our march to economic freedom for all our people.

To throw away the rule of law and to disregard the Constitution because of our differences is to fall into the trap of the enemies of change.

It is to dishonour the memory of Zola Skweyiya, Oliver Tambo and all those who fought with such dignity and principle for a peaceful and just South Africa.

As leaders, let us follow their example by ensuring that every grievance is given attention and every concern addressed.

Like Zola Skweyiya, we must listen to the people. 

We must put the people first.

And so we bid farewell to one of the best among us.

We bid farewell to a gentle soul and a formidable freedom fighter, whose remarkable legacy will endure long after all of us are gone.

Lala ngoxolo Mkhonto we Sizwe.

Oliver Tambo, sicela ubambe isandla senzalo ka Leta.

Libele!

Mboyi!

Solizembe!

I thank you.

Issued by the Presidency, Pretoria, 21 April 2018