19 March 2015
Tshwane Events Centre
205 Soutter Street
Deputy President of the Republic, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa
The Chabane family,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of the National and Provincial Legislatures
Mayors and Councillors
Comrades and Friends,
We are gathered today to pay tribute to our late Comrade, Collins Chabane, a humble, uncomplicated man who never lost the common touch!
As the African National Congress (ANC), we not only lost a beloved comrade, brother and friend; We have lost a man of great intellect to whom we all looked up to to provide leadership on the complex challenges we face as a movement and a country. Principled and forthright, it was in his unwavering character that we found refuge amidst the greatest of storms.
It is apt to use the words of Frederick Engels when he declared at the graveside of Karl Marx on 17 March 1883 that: "The gap that has been left by the departure of this mighty spirit will soon enough make itself felt. Fighting was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity and a success such as few could rival. His name will endure through the ages, and so also will his work."
This past week has proven to be one of the most difficult for our movement. With a throbbing pain we have tried to reconcile how such a figure, so full of life, is no more. The past week has compelled us to reflect. Not only do we reflect on the inspirational life led by Minister Collins Chabane, but on how far we have come as a movement.
We reflect on how the selfless acts and sacrifices by the likes of our late Comrade and the many heroes and heroines before us have brought dignity to the multitudes of our people. As we reflect, we appreciate that the attainment of our freedom as a nation could not have been fulfilled without these great acts of sacrifice. So in this pain, we find great relief that this battle has been well fought, and that the strife was not in vain. Indeed we describe the death of Comrade Chabane as an immeasurable loss to all of us!
Today we celebrate Comrade Chabane for the legacy he has created. "The Animal" as we fondly referred to him, was a man of many talents. We remember him as a brave, forthright, principled and truthful man, with a great sense of humor and an intoxicating laughter! Driven by a forceful conviction to liberate our people, Comrade Chabane chose to forsake all the innocence and privilege of youth to join the struggle to liberate our people. He was among thousands of young people who left a repressive apartheid South Africa to swell up the ranks of the people's army - Umkhonto we Sizwe, driven by the beautiful dream of a South Africa free of racial oppression.
Those of us who were in the trenches with him knows that a choice to dedicate and risk your entire life for the cause of freedom meant forsaking all trappings and semblance of normality; subjecting ourselves to a life bare of basic necessities and luxuries. In line with the provisions of the Freedom Charter, all we sought was to serve and to create a better future for all the people of South Africa.
An anchor to our movement, Comrade Chabane dedicated his life to serving our people. As a leader, he possessed a skill that very few can muster, that of listening attentively and knowing when to intervene in a discussion or debate. His sober and well-thought out words of wisdom were what we all looked forward to hearing especially in difficult and complex discussions.
His ability to hear out others as they spoke gave him the opportunity to further analyse and pronounce his views in a very solid and well channelled manner. At no point would he let emotions cloud his thinking and always applied his mind fully on matters.
A leader of great stature, he led from the front, respecting each and every person's contribution ensuring nobody felt small in his presence because he was a man who loved people and respected the dignity of all.
Comrade Chabane served the ANC with pride and dignity since joining MK in May 1980. During a 1984 infiltration operation back home in South Africa, he was arrested by the Security Police, charged with terrorism and sentenced to nine years imprisonment on Robben Island. During his time on Robben Island he expanded his passion for music by learning how to play the guitar and harmonica. On many occasions Comrade Chabane would join the local band on stage and express his passion.
After being released from Robben Island in 1990 Comrade continued on his journey to serve and played an active and important role in re-building the ANC throughout South Africa. As a result he was elected to the Limpopop Provincial Executive Committee in 1991 and the National Executive Committee of the ANC in 2007 . He had a great trust in the ANC and its elected leadership. Similarly the ANC had tremendous trust in Comrade Chabane and deployed him into various strategic positions both within the Party and government. He was one of the key people who influenced changes to the ANC's present Constitution. Comrade Chabane believed that all ANC members throughout the country had to educated in the history of the movement and how this impacts on the positions we adopt today!
As the African National Congress, we can only learn from the life led by Comrade Chabane. Our responsibility is to ensure that all our members and supporters live the values espoused by our late Comrade and serve with the same sense of diligence, dedication, and commitment.
It is indeed a tragedy and a great loss to our aspirations as a nation, when before its time, life is ended. As we cultivate and nurture our country's future leadership, it is the great wisdom and experience of Comrade Chabane that we will miss immensely.
We bid farewell to a great man, an ally, my Comrade in arms a decent and humble being.
As we say our final farewell we find comfort in the knowledge that you will once again be in company of great leaders of our movement such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, and many others.
To his wife Khensani, children, mother and siblings, and all the staff who serve in the portfolio of Comrade Collins Chabane, as well as the extended family, our hearts bleed for you. Know that you are not alone in your mourning. We wish you peace and strength at this time as we mourn the loss of a loved one, a friend, colleague, a passionate leader and a real servant of the people of South Africa. Together we will take the first step and learn how to go on after this great loss. Know that you are loved and will always have a safe haven in the African National Congress. May his legacy of selfless service continue to shine! May his soul rest in peace!
I thank you.
Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, Deputy Minister for Public Service and Administration