Tribute to the late Cde Thulani Mashaba by Cde Sihle Zikalala, ANC KZN Provincial Secretary, on the 19th July 2015
Nobody told us that the road will be easy. Nobody ever promised us that the journey of the revolution will go through a garden route full of rosy flowers. We knew we were joining the revolution. We expected upheavals and challenges. We expected sufferings imposed by the apartheid regime. Our determination was nothing and still remains nothing else than the liberation of the people.
I say this as Tribute to one of our Own, a Friend, a Comrade and a Dear Brother, Cde Thulani Mashaba. As one of the friends of Cde Thulani, I know that his life was at all times the Life of a Revolutionary within a Revolution. Thus, his friends are in the Revolution, his bonds of friendship were defined by the revolution. This interrelation therefore makes it impossible to reflect on the life of Cde Thulani outside of the revolution.
When we met as young people, all we knew and understood was the ANC. We surrendered ourselves to the struggle for a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, united and prosperous society. In joining the ANC we were not motivated by positions and indeed expected no reward. There were no cars and no deployments to government but we were driven by only one task, the task of building a strong ANC. Ours was to sustain the struggle for the movement to remove apartheid colonialism and put in place the People’s Government based on the People’s Power.
At that point as it remains today; the revolution required high dedication, resilience and courage. In defining the character of a revolutionary required in the struggle led by the ANC, Anton Lembede said:
“We are not called to peace, comfort and enjoyment, but to a hard work, struggle and sweat. We need young men and women of high moral stamina and integrity: of courage and vision. In short, we need warriors”.
None will argue with me when I say Cde Thulani was a man of courage and vision. I hope none will differ as I attest Cde Thulani was indeed a warrior required by the revolution as predicated by Cde Anton Lembede.
While Cde Thulani had many attributes, his incredible loyalty to the ANC remained outstanding. He never wavered and was never found wanting on his devotion to the ANC. To him the ANC was his first and everything. As President Jacob Zuma attested: “Cde Thulani Mashaba was a trusted leader of the ANC”. He regarded the ANC as sacrosanct and revered it through his entire life. Besides surviving, the attacks of warlords and apartheid police, he further persevered difficulties of working under very trying conditions for his movement. He never compromised in working for the ANC as to him, nothing was above the ANC. I know as matter of fact that the ANC is poorer without him.
Cde Thulani Mashaba was a workaholic. He worked for the ANC almost as if he knew that his time would be limited. He never shy away from any daunting or difficulty tasks of the ANC. Even after being elected into leadership positions, he never had separate duties for membership and separate duties for leadership. He would do anything and everything assigned to him by the ANC. He was a true volunteer of O.R. Tambo. In doing his work he possessed both courage and vision. He would work courageously and do it all. For him there was no task too big or too small, there was no task to be postponed. Those of us who were fortunate to work with him would know that he resisted at all costs to postpone any programme or task of the organisation. He had no time to rest but he was committed to work and work hard he did.
He was a visionary, at all times he would strive to ignite the campaign and programmes of the ANC by introducing innovative ideas. He would strive to think out of the box and introduce ideas never thought of before. In the last three months of his life, working with the REC of Musa Dladla Region, they convened a regional political school attended by all Branch Chairpersons, Secretaries, Sub-Regional leaders and Councillors. This was without doubt the largest Regional Political School ever hosted in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal.
In the last three months of his life, as the Deputy Mayor of uThungulu District he convened a District Social Cohesion Summit which was attended and addressed by ANC National Chairperson Cde Baleka Mbethe as the Speaker of Parliament, Cde Nathi Mthethwa and Cde Ahmed Kathrada. This was not just an event to parade the outstanding National Leaders of our country and the movement, but was in essence, an effort to imbue best values to the youth of his district. During mobilisation campaigns he would offer different methods, it is in the Musa Dladla Region where the ANC had a fun-run and picnic as part of mobilising the white community and encouraging them to join and be part of the ANC. He persistently encouraged the idea of opening an ANC office in a former white suburb of Richards Bay on the understanding that only when the ANC moves closer and provide service to all people regardless of colour, will the ANC win overwhelmingly inclusive non-racial support.
I have no fear of any contradiction when I say Cde Thulani was a courageous leader who devoted all his energy towards the work of our precious movement. He was also a great visionary who would always aim high regardless of the challenge that presented itself. It is within my mind to fearlessly say, he taught many of us how the impossible could be made possible.
Within the ANC, he remained at all times frank and honest about his ideas. He would never go around gossiping or rabblerousing. He presented his views frankly, openly and clearly within structures. He was always known for his thoughts and none would second-guess his thinking. Yet at the same time, he conveyed his views with no fear or favour. He preferred to differ with a person openly rather than to pose as a pretender. He stood up for his viewpoints even though such viewpoints could potentially attract victimisation or even isolation. I dare hope that none will challenge me when I say Cde Thulani Mashaba was - throughout his life - honest and brutally frank to all within the ANC and the Alliance. It is better to live and suffer for ideas you believe in, than to live a life conveniently pleasing others. A person is far wealthier through living a poor life but remaining principled as opposed to enjoying a high standard of living with no consciousness.
I can attest Cde Mashaba would never betray his loyalty to the ANC for any material benefits, he would never sell his soul to enjoy material gains at the expense of principles.
This is not a reflection out of a sense of despair and despondency but rather a proclamation of a life of a warrior whose attributes will inspire us even after his passing on. This life of Cde Mashaba must teach us to live life based on principles and correct ethics. A life where our innermost convictions allow us to only do good. That is the inspiration this great warrior leaves behind.
As former President Nelson Mandela said at the funeral of Cde O.R. Tambo: “As long as the ANC lives Tambo will never die”. Cde Mashaba shall never die and will live forever in the minds and hearts of all those who believe in honesty, sincerity, frankness and dedicated towards working hard for the ANC.
I have no intention to monopolise his death; for his wife has lost a husband, his mother and family have lost a son, his children have lost a father, his comrades - in particular of his generation - have lost a comrade and a true friend. As one of those friends, upon my life he has left a great imprint, an imprint that will surely last a lifetime. I cherished many fond moments with him and such moments shall remain my ignition and inspiration for going forward.
To you Cde Thulani Mashaba, we bid farewell for you. You have made a great contribution to the lives of many people. We thank you for being yourself, and you shall forever be an inspiration to many of us.
Farewell, Rest in Peace Cde Mashaba, Phoseka, Makhendleleni.