EULOGY BY KWAZULU-NATAL PREMIER SIHLE ZIKALALALA AT THE PROVINCIAL OFFICIAL FUNERAL OF HONOURABLE MLULEKI EZEKIEL NDOBE, KOKSHIL, MZIMKHULU, 14 NOVEMBER 20202
Mrs N Ndobe, the children, and the entire Ndobe Family;
Speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, Ms. N Boyce;
Members of the Executive Council (MECs);
Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs);
Honourable V Hlabisa, leader of the IFP and official opposition in our Legislature;
Leaders of Various Political Parties;
Religious and Traditional Leaders;
Rev L. Gingqi;
The Leadership of the South African Police Service (SAPS);
The Director-General of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr N.Mkhize;
Fellow Mourners, Friends, and Compatriots;
At the inaugural conference on 8 January 1912 of Africa’s glorious and oldest liberation movement, the African National Congress to which our revolutionary cadre Mluleki Ndobe belonged, our forebears sang Reverend Tiyo Soga’s hymn,
“Lizalis’ idinga lakho, (Fulfil your promise)
Thixo Nkosi yenyaniso! (Faithful God)
Zonk’ iintlanga, zonk’ izizwe, (All races, all nations,)
Ma zizuze usindiso. (Must be saved)”
And in our hour of national grief, we say Let Thy Will be Done and Fulfil Oh Lord Your Promise so that the departure of this gallant cadre may galvanise us to pick up his fallen spear and continue to fight for a South Africa that is just and at peace with itself; a South Africa that is truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, equal, and prosperous.
With heavy hearts, we have descended to the tranquil and historic Kokshill village, KwaSondzaba, here in Umzimkhulu to bid farewell to a distinguished South African patriot and a revolutionary cadre of the African National Congress, Mluleki Ezekiel Ndobe.
As his name ‘Mlulek’i suggests, we have lost a wise, patient, and gifted counsellor of the people.
And we also draw our fortitude in his second name, Ezekiel, which means God’s Strength.
May our fond memories of this fallen warrior of justice and human dignity keep us resilient and steadfast in the pursuit of the National Democratic Revolution.
We will always remember the Honourable Ndobe as the personification of unconditional love for one’s country and an epitome of selfless service to the poor and marginalised of our province.
In paying our last respects to the pride and hope of the Ndobe’s, we are flying our flag at half-mast at this Provincial Official Funeral.
We also dip our revolutionary banner of black, green, and gold of his beloved and glorious movement, the African National Congress.
Once more, we convey our deepest and heartfelt sympathies to his wife, his children, and his family.
As you come to terms with your monumental, irreplaceable loss and ask yourselves questions, please find comfort and wisdom in Philippians 4 verse 7 which states: “And the peace of God which surpassed all understanding, shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus.”
Indeed, may the peace of our Lord transcend all human understanding and help us heal.
Like Horatio Spafford who faced many storms and tragedies with the death of his children, may the family find solace and strength in his famous hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.” Coming to terms his unbearable pain, Spafford composed the words:
“When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul”
Yize sife olwembiza, asamukeleni mndeni nesizwe sakithi, simkhulule umfowethu aphumule ingunaphakade kwelamathongo.
Ngokuzithoba nenhlonipho sithi lalani ngenxeba sizukulwane saba Thwa neqhawe iNkosi u Madzikane ka Zulu. Duduzekani nonke bo: Ndobe, Siwa, Siqathi, Bhongweni, Phungela, Ncikini.
Since the news broke a week ago that the bright flame of UMzimkhulu has been extinguished, we have heard moving testimonies of how Honourable Ndobe touched people and inspired them.
We too who were in the trenches with him, bear witness to these accounts.
Honourable Ndobe surrendered himself to the struggle of the people at a young age and served in COSAS, SASCO and the ANCYL. While studying he knew that to be a student leader comes with a responsibility to excel in academic studies. He demonstrated that the leadership responsibility is not a comfort zone but a platform to advance the course of the movement and the suffering masses.
Knowing the interconnectedness of the South African Revolution, when he started working, he participated in SADTU, SACP and the ANC. This strong base enriched his ideological outlook to strike a balance between the struggle for liberation of the ordinary people and advancing workers struggle.
In essence, Honourable Ndobe was an all-round leader who equipped himself with knowledge to understand each terrain of struggle and apply required skills and tactics to advance the course of the people.
Fellow Compatriots here lies in front of us the son of KwaSondzaba village who remained the epitome of skilful and grounded organiser. When he joined the ANCYL, he quickly rose to became the Regional Secretary of the ANCYL in the Alfred Nzo District, where he demonstrated exceptional leadership which made the Alfred Nzo Region to be reckoned with and respected not because of its size, but because of its activism with programmes that brought vibrancy of the ANC Youth League amongst the youth of the region and the province.
His organisational management skills made impact not only in Harry Gwala Region, but throughout KwaZulu-Natal. He mastered the understanding of ideological and political character of the ANC and the Alliance and balanced it with organisational management which saw effective running of structures and running of practical programmes that respond to the daily plight of the people of the region and KwaZulu-Natal as whole.
He never asked others to perform tasks that he himself was not prepared to undertake. He lived by his word and practiced what he preached. Irrespective of how difficult or enormous the task was, Honourable Ndobe would patiently insist that leaders should be at the frontlines and be amongst the first to undertake tasks towards building a strong organisation. In this, he displayed the highest level of self-sacrifice and selflessness.
Lying here in front of us, in his wooden house on a journey to eternity, is a commissar who understood that to serve the people and the revolutionary course requires self-development to provide strategic leadership and be vast with technical understanding on how things need to be done. Hence he subscribed to the notion of lifelong learning, and so while he was armed with a master’s degree, he knew that he still needed to advance his knowledge to always be effective to the struggle. This helped him to understand what was expected of him in each area where the movement deployed him.
We pay tribute to him for using his education, skills, and talent to strengthen his organisation, the African National Congress, so that it could be an effective instrument of liberation in the hands of the people.
As the saying goes, “charity begins at home”, and so we honour his efforts to support the education of his family and the bigger Ndobe clan. And as Mayor and later in his capacity as the Deputy Speaker of our Legislature, Comrade Ndobe remained passionate about the education and skilling of our youth. It could not have been otherwise because the Freedom Charter demand for opening the doors of learning and culture and the battle for free education were the struggles he and his generation actively championed in Cosas, SASCO, and the ANCYL.
Honourable Ndobe lies in front of us emotionless elected to oppose the imperial agenda that sought to brainwash our people and subject them to inferiority that rendered them as servants of the oppressors. While he lived, Honourable Ndobe devoted all his energies as an ANC Provincial Head of Political Education to arm its cadres with tools of analysis and theoretical orientation of the movement and of the enemy alike.
While he lived, he would emphasise that the ANC and its government exist because of the people. While emphasising the need to organise and mobilise the people, he also equally advanced the need to serve the people and ensure their development. Honourable Ndobe was admired and respected by the community of uMzimkhulu and indeed our province. He respected everyone, young and old, rich and poor, and his heart always beat as one with the less fortunate.
Lying here in front of us is gentle and humble servant, who always demonstrated a great sense of modesty and humility. He never treated people based on their social standing and economic status. To him, everybody was somebody, so respected the dignity of all whether they were rich or poor, whether they were from the cities or the smallest rural village in our rural hinterland.
Always warm and soft-spoken, he excelled in simplifying complex concepts in a language that was easily understood by any audience he dealt with. While the struggle drew him to serve his people through politics, Cde Ndobe remained a magnificent teacher at heart never failing to inspire and to counsel. In the ANC, he was our political commissar par excellence even though we never officially gave him such a title because Cde Ndobe was never about positions despite his extraordinary talents and popularity among the rank and file of our movement.
He was kind, but not timid. While friendly, he was intolerant of indiscipline. And we know that he was not just a consensus builder, but also a decisive leader. We will miss his bravery, resoluteness, and foresight during many of our trying moments.
In Cde Ndobe we had that special generation of ANC cadres and activists who cherished and loved the African National Congress wholeheartedly and without any sense of ambiguity. He belongs to the league of ANC volunteers who understood that the ANC is the priceless heritage of the people of South Africa, not individuals.
The ANC has lost a dedicated and committed cadre. He spent his life building the ANC and defending its values, integrity, and principles even if it meant taking difficult decisions against our own comrades for the sake of our organisation. He leaves us at a critical time when he was leading the eThekwini Regional Task Team mandated to rebuild and restore the organisation in that area.
We were blessed with his frankness and forthrightness. Till his last days, he challenged us as his comrades and his organisation if he felt there were areas that needed to be corrected. We knew where he stood even if we did not always agree on tactics and strategy.
In him, we had a natural democrat who valued fairness and justice. This quality came in handy when he was our Deputy Speaker in our Provincial Legislature. Since his passing, members of opposition parties have attested that Cde Ndobe was a decent human being who was fair and tolerant of different views. Although he came on the ticket of the African National Congress, Cde Ndobe has been praised for being level-headed and exemplifying the Freedom Charter declaration that, “The People Shall Govern” through his active support of multi-party democracy in our Legislature.
We have lost a capable leader of the Legislature who made it his business to study, master, and articulate all our legislations and rules of engagement in the House. He was a stickler to detail who displayed a keen interest in how our laws could be strengthened to enrich democracy and advance socio-economic transformation.
We cannot hide that at some point challenges and catastrophes emerged and besieged our glorious liberation movement and we must continue to rectify our mistakes and to renew the people’s organisation and restore its integrity as a potent weapon of liberation.
Comrade Ndobe himself also went through a very trying time as a senior leader of the ANC including being arrested on allegations that must have dented his reputation. The charges were later withdrawn and Cde Ndobe maintained his innocence and expressed his sadness at the allegations that had been levelled against him. Pained and upset, he did not concoct conspiracy theories or cast aspersions on anyone. When he was released, like a seasoned cadre of the ANC, he told the public that he was going to get guidance from the leadership of his organisation, the ANC. That was Cde Ndobe who would not dare jeopardise the name of the ANC in his own most trying and painful time.
The ANC has lost several comrades in the sub-region of uMzimkhulu, and indeed this has deepened divisions and strained relations amongst comrades who had not only grew up together but who had always pledged solidarity with each other and lived together at all material times.
Whilst Honourable Ndobe departed at the time when the sub-region and the region was hard at work to restore unity, it is equally correct that a lot still needs to be done. We must sustain efforts and initiatives that seeks to restore unity in the organisation.
It is saddening to hear some of our young comrades lamenting and saying; “another pain that some of us are subjected to is that of being compelled to choose between Cde Magaqa and Cde Ndobe, May their soles Rest In Peace. Acknowledging Cde Ndobe is interpreted as hatred towards Cde Magaqa yet acknowledging Cde Magaqa is interpreted as hatred towards Cde Ndobe”.
We have an obligation to build everlasting unity in the name of all departed comrades but specifically these two leaders. Sustaining divisions undermine the movement and livelihood of our people. In any way, let’s all understand the ANC does not exist for us as individuals, but it exists to serve the people as a whole. Both our departed comrades understood this and they would do anything to strengthen the ANC so that it serves the people much better. People of Harry Gwala District have embraced the ANC as their way of living, and so undermining unity and continuing working against each other will only undermine all efforts aimed at bringing much needed development this District.
Fellow Compatriots, we will never know what was in the mind of Comrade Ndobe at the moment he passed on. But there are a few things we can still sense from that tragic moment. His untimely passing away is again a sharp reminder to all of us that we live with death all the time.
His sudden demise must serve as a reminder again that life is extremely fragile. In thinking about him, we are called to be more grateful about the blessing that we are still alive. We are also called upon to be more gentle, more caring, and more loving to one another.
We knew that Honourable Ndobe was diagnosed with cancer. One is almost certain that this revolutionary icon would want us as his friends and comrades to seriously look at this disease and the devastation and trauma it brings to patients and families. It has also robbed us of the life of our Auditor General, Mr Kimi Makwetu. And exactly a year ago, we laid to rest veteran journalist Xolani Gwala after succumbing to cancer. He was only 44 years old. We all know that Xolani Gwala passed on having become a champion of access to healthcare for cancer patients. We must carry his message forward.
Cde Ndobe leaves us while our nation is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. We all saw how at the beginning of the hard lockdown the inadequate and inequitable South African health care system was not prepared to deal with pandemic because of the under-resourced public health system. Our government had to use its reserves and borrow money to prepare for the public health system to deal with the numbers that we anticipated to avert a human catastrophe. The necessary hard lockdown devastated our economy and cost our country many jobs as we correctly focused on saving lives in an under-resourced public health system. We vowed at the beginning of the lockdown that we must accelerate our efforts to achieve universal healthcare through the NHI.
Comrade Ndobe’s battle with cancer must serve as a sharp reminder that we must refuse to return to a world where only a few citizens with money can access adequate healthcare. To honour him, we must promote public awareness of cancer and get more people to be tested and treated early. We must also invest in training more oncologists and making sure that accessing their services is not determined by the depth of one’s pockets.
Today we lay to rest Cde Ndobe on Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. We hope and pray that his passing away will open our eyes to our ignorance and prejudices, that light must triumph over darkness, and good over evil.
We will miss you very much Comrade Ndobe and we can never thank you enough for your contribution to our freedom and in improving the lives of our people.
In saying our final farewells to you, allow me to dedicate the poem titled, “MY SOUL HAS A HAT” and was written by Brazilian author, Mário de Andre (1893-1945):
“I counted my years and realized that I have less time to live by, than I have lived so far. I feel like a child who won a pack of candies: at first he ate them with pleasure but when he realized that there was little left, he began to taste them intensely.
I have no time for endless meetings where the statutes, rules, procedures and internal regulations are discussed, knowing that nothing will be done.
I no longer have the patience to stand absurd people who, despite their chronological age, have not grown up. My time is too short: I want the essence; my spirit is in a hurry. I do not have much candy in the package anymore.
I want to live next to humans, very realistic people who know how to laugh at their mistakes and who are not inflated by their own triumphs and who take responsibility for their actions. In this way, human dignity is defended and we live in truth and honesty. It is the essentials that make life useful.
My goal is to reach the end satisfied and at peace with my loved ones and my conscience. We have two lives and the second begins when you realize you only have one.”
Fare the well Comrade Ndobe, we will dearly miss you!
Once again we pray; Lizalis’ idinga lakho, Thixo Nkosi yenyaniso!