Struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela put societal needs before her own until her dying days, Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor said on Thursday.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, meanwhile, took some time to describe the late former Minister Dr Zola Skweyiya as a man who always put the needs of his country first before cheap politiking while he was a Member of Parliament.
Members of Parliament on Thursday paid tribute to the fallen struggle icons during a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in Cape Town.
The sitting came shortly after MPs held a memorial service, which was attended by the Madikizela, Mandela and Skweyiya families at the Old Assembly Chamber earlier in the day.
Mam’ Winnie passed away on 2 April and was laid to rest on 14 April in a Special Official Funeral.
Skweyiya, who passed away on 11 April 2018, was laid to rest on 21 April in a Special Official Funeral as declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa shortly after his passing.
Minister Pandor said Mam’ Winnie’s selflessness can be traced back to the early days of her life – characterised by incidents of racism – which shaped her into a woman who lived her life hungry for justice.
In her last interview, given in March and re-broadcast on Easter Monday afternoon, the day of her passing, Mam’ Winnie spoke of how she had always put the collective good of the ANC before her individual well being.
“She worried about unemployment that remains at an historic high across the general population and as high as two out of three among young people.
She worried about corruption, which has not only undermined public finances but also public confidence in the State,” said Minister Pandor.
The Minister said Mam’ Winnie helped to lay the foundation for a democratic South Africa.
“We’re still building the nation she wanted, but building on the foundation that she helped to lay for us.
“Inspired by her, free South Africa has made great progress towards building a truly non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic South Africa.
“Together we have begun to establish a country that is dedicated to patriotism, nation building and reconciliation,” she said.
NCOP chairperson Thandi Modise said Mam’ Winnie should be honoured for her valuable contribution as a young mother, who stood firm against the ruthless apartheid government.
She said Mam’ Winne’s name and legacy should be kept alive.
“As we celebrate uMama Sisulu, as we celebrate uMadiba this year, we must also celebrate the woman who kept the name of Nelson Mandela in our hearts and in our minds for more than 30 years.
“We must remember the little contribution she made because when you are from the outside [looking in] it looks little, when you are from the inside, it looks huge,” she said.
Modise said it was good that the truth about Mam’ Winnie, whose reputation was a victim of the apartheid communications machinery, was finally starting to come out.
Modise hopes that Mam’ Winne will take her rightful place in history and that when statues of liberators are erected, hers will be erected not because she was Madiba’s wife, but because her contribution was valuable.
A fair politician, and a man of integrity
With Cabinet made up of a mix of Minsiters and Deputy Ministers from several parties post 1994 in what was called a “government of unity”, former Minisiter Buthelezi said while he was on ocassion made acutely aware that he was an IFP Minister in an ANC Cabinet, Dr Skweyiya played fairly.
“Whenever my colleagues in Cabinet attacked my contribution based on politics rather than merit, Minister Zola Skweyiya would tell them ‘you are being unfair to our colleague’ with no fear of speaking up for principles. He was a man of integrity and a leader who had more interest in the goodness of his country than playing politics,” he said.
Buthelezi was a Minister of Home Affairs between 1994 and 2004.
Struggle stalwart Charles Nqakula, who has served as both a Minister of Safety and Security, and Defence, said when he recently visited Dr Skweyiya in ICU, he started asking political questions and raised issues he has always raised about his party.
“Those who have been in the ANC for a long time know, comrade Zola, that your fight was against the defiling of the values of the ANC (sic). And they would have been surprised when you did not raise your concerns when the policies of your movement were being violated willy nilly without any intervention by the senior leadership,” he said.