ANC NEC member and former KwaZulu-Natal premier Dr Zweli Mkhize delivered the keynote address on Friday at the ANC memorial for party stalwart Ina Cronjé who died last month.
Reflecting on his decades-long friendship with Cronjé, Mkhize said her contribution to democracy was immense.
Mkhize highlighted Cronjé’s role in the transformation of South Africa from the late 1980s. She and her husband Pierre had joined the ANC before the advent of democracy and played an instrumental role in setting up party structures after the unbanning of the liberation movement.
Cronjé was appointed MEC for education in 2004 by then-premier S’bu Ndebele. In 2009, she was appointed MEC for finance by then-premier Zweli Mkhize. In 2014 she was appointed chairperson of Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal.
“It is very hard to talk about Ina without Pierre. They loved each other, you could see this. They could have been anything that they wanted to be but they said ‘No, something is wrong with this country, let’s try and fix it’.
They were a part of the early formation of the ANC. They worked very well together. In whatever we do in this life, all that we leave behind are memories and we have good memories of our comrade Ina,” said Mkhize.
The Tatham Art Gallery was packed to capacity with those who wished pay tribute to Cronjé’s political activism. Although the mood was sombre, at times it was celebratory as speakers reflected on Cronjé’s inspirational impact on the ANC, society and her contribution to women empowerment.
Msunduzi mayor, Mzimkhulu Thebolla, said Cronjé’s lifelong contribution had left an indelible legacy.
She was a human first. Her name will remain written in the history books for what she has done for the people. We wish to pay our deepest condolences.
Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, John Harold Jeffery, commended Cronjé’s dedication to the people.
“She made a significant contribution to society in whichever role she undertook. She wanted to make a difference to peoples’ lives and she did. Ina was working right up until the very end,” said Jeffery, who was also a close family friend.
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Pierre Cronjé, the husband of Ina Cronjé, tried to say a few words but was overcome with emotion.
MEC for Health, Nomagugu Simelane, said that she learnt a lot from Cronjé.
Ina taught me to embrace being a woman in leadership. She carried herself with grace and dignity. Even at meetings, she would apply her lipstick and gently remind us that we should embrace being women, which meant embracing our roles and mothers as well. She was very particular about the importance of family and values.
ANC and SACP veteran Yunus Carrim said yesterday’s memorial was not to mourn Ina Cronjé but “celebrate her full, eventful and productive life”.
‘Mama Action’, Ina was called. There are many things that can be said of Ina, but what most stands out is her unyielding, relentless, hard work. All of us who came in contact with her, however fleetingly, were struck by this. Another characteristic of hers that rings out in the present. The need to ensure that the people’s money is used productively.
“For the people, that there’s value for money, that there’s no wastage; no over or underspending; no mismanagement; no corruption; and clean audits without sacrificing service delivery. Given our economic and financial crisis, we need this more now than ever,” said Carrim.