President Cyril Ramaphosa: Eulogy of the late Deputy Minister Bavelile Hlongwa

Eulogy by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the funeral service of the late Deputy Minister Bavelile Hlongwa

Programme Directors,

Mrs Bukani Hlongwa and the entire Hlongwa family

Speaker of the National Assembly, Mme Thandi Modise,

Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Sihle Zikalala,

Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Members of the Judiciary,

Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

President of the ANC Women’s League, Ms Bathabile Dlamini,

Leadership of the ANC Youth League and other youth formations,

Fellow mourners,

I rise with deep pain to pay tribute to Bavelile Gloria Hlongwa, who at the time of her tragic passing was serving the nation as the Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy.

She lost her life in a tragic accident trying to save others, as she reached out to people involved in another accident, a gesture that on its own give us a moment to reflect on her character which one can only describe as a substantial demonstration of ubuntu.

On this occasion, we also pay our condolences to the families of all the people who perished with her in that most terrible accident, families who now also have to brave the agonising journey of taking their loved ones to their various places of rest.

On behalf of our government and the people of South Africa, I once more convey our deepest condolences to the Hlongwa family and relatives over the tragic and untimely loss of their daughter, sister and mother, to her friends and comrades, and to the entire nation, which is still reeling from the shock of this loss.

In the same spirit, as government we convey our heartfelt condolences to the families of the people who lost their lives in the accident that night.

These are the families of Kekana in Hammanskraal and Malaka in Soshanguve, who also lost their young sons, Katlego and Sipho, as well as those others who sustained injuries in that calamity.

This week, on Thursday, we dispatched government officials to visit these families and convey our message of compassion and support.

Through our prayers, commiserations and support, we are determined to ensure that these families do not walk this daunting road alone.

May they be comforted, and may the souls of our Comrade Hon Deputy Minister Hlongwa and those who departed with her rest in peace.

This Wednesday in cabinet all DM Hlongwa’s colleagues were filled with deep sadness as we all observed a moment of silence and looked at the empty chair she was supposed to sit at which we had adoneren with flowers in memory of her

As government we lost a very important team member in our relatively new Executive.

Minister Gwede Mantashe has recounted his fruitful and complementary working relations Hon Deputy Minister Hlongwa at the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy.

Some of the things he mentioned, which have reverberated in the tributes across the country, were her passion, energy, humility and eagerness to serve the nation.

The Hlongwa family lost a daughter, a sister, a mother, a provider, a mentor and an example to the young ones in the family and beyond.

Indeed, they have lost their pride and joy, and pillar of support from whom much was still expected.

The young lions in the ANC Youth League and other youth formations have also lost a very accomplished member that they considered still an inseparable part of their pride.

The ANC Women’s League has lost an important member of its young battalion.

The entire organisation is gripped with a deep sense of unexpected loss.

The nation is in mourning because it has lost its humble child, a patriot true to her vocation of serving humanity.

The good Samaritan in her blinded her to the treacherous circumstances that night as she stopped to help those who were in need.

She lived out her Christian beliefs and the true values of Ubuntu, of human compassion.

As in life, Bavelile passed away in service to the people.

As a result of her untimely death we lost a captivating glimpse of the future leadership of our country and movement.

Our continent, Africa has been robbed of a promising star.

When we appointed her and other young people into the Executive, we wanted to make a definitive statement of faith in the youth, to affirm that the future of this country lies with them, in the same way as our past and present bear the imprints of youth. If anyone ever had doubts about the contribution that young people could make to the public affairs of our country Bavelile and other young people we have put in strategic positions have proven that our country has gained manifold from the contribution she and her peers continue to make.

BV was forthright, robust, informed, academically grounded. Her contributions were underpinned by a unique urgency and always focused on the future. Even at her tender age she always looked to what her generation would bequeath to their next generation. Her recurring theme was ‘we must ensure that we transform our economy, return the land to our people so that those who come after us should never have to ask us what we did to address poverty, unemployment and poverty.’ In expressing her views she was unapologetically fearless, courageous, ready to take risks, revolutionary, and a visionary.

We wanted to make use of her technical skills as an engineer and as a young person to transform the mining and energy sector and improve the lives of the people of South Africa.

All of us know that the freedom that we enjoy today owes a great deal to the initiatives and sacrifices of the successive generations of youth, of people like Pixley Ka Isaka Seme, Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Steve Biko, Charlotte Maxeke, Solomon Mahlangu, the legion of 1976 and countless people in our ranks who over the years risked their lives to fight injustice.

Bavelile Hlongwa was a shining model for the youth to emulate.

She was educated, not only by virtue of her studies in chemical engineering and public management, but also because she was immersed in the life and struggles of communities.

There is no better way to learn than through social activism.

In her early life she was a community worker and caregiver, which gave her an amplified view of the challenges and everyday realities of life that our society unremittingly faces.

In this she proved one among the very few.

Many young people are reluctant to work in communities, particularly in rural areas and informal settlements, which is why there is a persistent shortage of skills, health care, economic opportunity and technical capabilities in areas outside the metros and cities.

It is important for young people to learn that service gives one an experience and understanding of society that they cannot get anywhere else.

In her university life too, Bavelile Hlongwa was constantly active in service, in the students’ residence, in the student Christian fellowship, in student politics and in the Student Representative Council.

It is in service and active involvement that we learn, grow and become truly enlightened.

She had begun to apply all this learning and experience in her new portfolio.

The task of transforming the mining industry requires people like her, who have ideas and scientific knowledge, who have energy, who understand the youth, and who, like her, are concerned about the lingering unemployment and poverty among the youth.

At the time of her passing, her department was finalising a Youth Energy Policy to guide programmes and projects to integrate young people in the energy sector.

I have no doubt that she was going to play a very catalytic role in this effort.

Part of it related to foundational issues of promoting science and technology among the learners at school level, so that they are prepared to enter the energy sector and play a meaningful role in its entire value chain.

As an engineer and young person, Deputy Minister Hlongwa was a natural choice to connect with the youth and inspire them to follow science and technology fields and enter the energy sector.

In her memory, we have a responsibility to ensure that this programme grows and succeeds.

In her memory, we must pursue true economic transformation, where the previously disadvantaged command a substantial share in every key industry and sector, in terms of ownership, management, participation and benefit.

As a young woman active in communities, BV, as she was fondly known, was troubled by the pervasive abuse of women and children.

She was one of the pathfinders seeking solutions to this blight in our society.

In her visits to communities, what troubled her most was child-headed households.

She understood their suffering, and was often moved to use her own money to buy groceries for them.

She did the same in providing sanitary towels for poor young women.

She was concerned about the economic inclusion of women, emphasising that it was an essential part of the struggle for women empowerment.

I am certain that she would have played a prominent role in the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Strategy in the energy sector, which she told us was in the process of finalisation.

In her work at the National Youth Development Agency, she together with others made sure that the NY DA was restored to good governance and that the financial accountability was optimised. She reached out to youth across the country to promote the funding programmes that are available to improve the opportunities for young people.

We have a responsibility to continue her work in significantly expanding the work of the NYDA and other entities to empower youth through economic opportunities.

She had the vitality and the exuberance of youth.

To her, youth was not an excuse for social deviance.

To her, youth was a time and a condition that lent itself to meaningful service and development.

She believed that the energy of young people should be invested in meaningful projects that will touch lives.

She was convinced that the lives and focus of young people should be invested in education, community participation, volunteerism, continual self-empowerment and reading.

This may explain her keen participation in political education.

She believed that people need to know the values, ethos and programmes of the movement to which she belonged, its primary concerns, struggles and the necessary social transformation it champions.

Political education is paramount in the development of young cadres.

It inculcates deeper knowledge about this country and promotes patriotism.

Bavelile Hlongwa was humble and unassuming, and was not beyond the reach of her many comrades even after elevation to high office.

At home she was a warm, affable, loving and a dependable child of the family.

Bavelile’s foremost attraction was her character, her humility, compassion, hard work and deepest sense of duty, which I am certain is a reflection of her upbringing.

She was humane. Her kith and kin are beneficiaries of her unending benevolence.

She served the ANC well, from the lower structures in the province up to national level.

At the time of her passing, the National Working Committee of the ANC had recommended her for co-option into the National Executive Committee of the organisation.

Before that she was recognised for many roles, including in the private sector.

This recognition, few can disagree, was earned.

As we mourn her untimely passing, we take solace in the purposeful and exemplary life that she led. We weep because we love the kind person that she was, we weep for the people who love her and the country that she loved.

She did more for her society in less than four decades of life than many who reach old age manage to do.

She will be sorely missed, but we will always remember her!

To her family I say we know that the passage of time never really heals the wounds that have been occasioned by such a tragic loss. We hope that you will be able to find peace and comfort.

To us her colleagues we must carry on with the work that she was involved in with all of us, because we have to, because our people would want us to, and because the memory of her life will be the light to guide us as we go forward.

BV has gone home now, she will be guided by the great women of our struggle that she idolised. She will be guided by Mama Albertina Sisulu, Lillian Ngoyi, Winnie Madikizela Mandela. Charlotte Maxeke and many others.

She will join the ranks of all those great leaders leaving those of us who grieve her passing with the memories she gave us, the good that she did, the dreams she worked towards. We will remain with a single, enduring image of her – the image of a committed young comrade who was hard-working, decent, committed, reliable, dignified and honourable.

As someone said “Lives are like rivers: eventually they go where they must, not where we want them to.

Lala ngoxolo Deputy Minister Bavelile Hlongwa. I was looking forward to working with you.

Lala ngoxolo Khuluse, Shozi, Gabhisa, Mtumasela, Langa, Mbasha, Wena owehla ngomzungulu wasala wabola, Khawula!

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa