The late Zola Skweyiya has been described by President Cyril Ramaphosa as a selfless leader who worked for the betterment of his people.
“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,” said Ramaohosa.
The President was speaking at the former Cabinet Minister’s funeral which took place on Saturday at the Christian Revival Church in Pretoria. In his honour, the President declared a Special Official Funeral following Skweyiya’s passing.
Scores of mourners came to bid farewell to the “gentle giant” as he was fondly described by family and friends.
Former President Thabo Mbeki and his wife Zanele Mbeki, Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Premier David Makhura, government officials and political party leaders were among those that were present at the funeral.
According to the President, at the heart of Skweyiya’s work was the commitment to serve his people and improve their lives.
“We were heartened by his moral clarity and by his steadfast commitment to democracy, justice and peace. Here was a nobleman 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 dreams of the dispossessed, the marginalised and the suffering,” said Ramaphosa.
Speaking of his work ethic, the man who was the first post-apartheid Minister of the Department of Public Service and Administration and later the Social Development Minister was said to serve with distinction.
“Those who were fortunate to work with him in exile and in government reminded us of Zola Skweyiya’s work ethic, his collegiality and passion to develop people who worked with him.
“They described him as an architect of a democratic, 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 our Constitution,” said the President.
In Skweyiya’s honour, the president said the government would intensify the struggle to complete the restoration of the dignity of South Africans.
“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,” said Ramaphosa.
Remembered as the architect of the progressive social assistance programme, Ramaphosa said it was government’s responsibility to ensure that the public service retains the character that Skweyiya envisioned and embraces the values that he espoused.
“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,” said the president.
In light of the Mahikeng protests that erupted in the North West this week over issues of governance and corruption, Ramaphosa said in memory of Skweyiya the rule of law must be maintained no matter the grievances.
“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. 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,” said Ramaphosa.