Parliament recently called a special joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to pay tribute to two former outstanding parliamentarians and veterans of the liberation struggle who passed away in the month of April. Former National Assembly Members and stalwarts of the liberation movement, Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Dr Zola Skweyiya, passed away in April and were both given special official funerals.

Dr Skweyiya was a Member of Parliament between 1994 and 2009 and he served as Minister of Public Service and Administration in the first Parliament and later as Minister of Social Development. Ms Madikizela-Mandela became a Deputy Minister of Art, Culture, Science and Technology in the first democratic government and later served as an ordinary member of the National Assembly until her passing.

NCOP Chief Whip Mr Seiso Mohai led tributes to former Minister Skweyiya, calling him a giant of the struggle for liberation and praising him for championing the child support grant policy. Mr Mohai described Dr Skweyiya as a selfless and fearless combatant for a better life for all, a visionary and a revolutionary intellectual who always placed high premium on the experiences of the masses as a source for defining the urgent tasks of the revolution at each given epoch.

Democratic Alliance (DA) National Assembly MP Mr Stephens Mokgalapa called on Members of Parliament to learn from Dr Skweyiya’s courage to speak truth to power and fight against wrong doing and deviation from principles and values. Let us learn from this humanitarian, intellectual and exceptional diplomat who prioritised the wellbeing of South Africa and its people.

Inkatha Freedom Party Leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi said Skweyiya he had no fear for speaking for principles, and was a man of integrity and a leader who was more interested in the good of his country, than playing politics.

Other members of Parliament said Dr Skweyiya will be will be remembered as the architect of the social security system, the child support grant, the nutritional feeding scheme programme in early childhood development centres and primary schools.

He could indeed be referred to as the founder of the Batho Pele principles. He was instrumental in ensuring that our children were fed and that poverty was alleviated, said Professor Nhlanhlakayise Khubisa of the National Freedom Party.

According to Mr Makosini Chabangu, an NCOP Delegate from the Free State and EFF MP, Dr Skweyiya’s pioneering work in rolling out social grants to the vulnerable and the needy, in the process, ensuring that over 17 million people have something to eat, is the greatest legacy of the post-1994 administration.

Mr Charles Nqakula said Dr Skweyiya’s commitment to poverty alleviation was legendary. A social grant system was one of the instruments that he piloted to deal with poverty. He argued, however, that the social grant system would not resolve, on its own, the plight of the poor. He suggested a multiple approach that would include land ownership by black people, meaning Africans, Coloureds and Indians. Among other things, the new land owners would use that land for food security, said Mr Nqakula.

In paying tribute to Mrs Madikizela-Mandela, Ms Naledi Pandor, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, described the liberation stalwart as an extraordinary woman, a woman of substance who made an indelible contribution to our history, our struggle and our freedom. Ms Pandor called on South Africans to celebrate Ms Madikizela-Mandela’s contribution by giving as much attention to the poor as she did.

Let us celebrate her by studying hard, by developing skills to serve the people with quality care. Celebrate her by making a practical reality of that ambition she upheld of a better life for all and most especially for the poorest, she said.

Limpopo Delegate to the NCOP Ms Brenda Mathevula said in paying tribute to Ms Madikizela-Mandela, South Africa must re-commit to equal pay for men and women, ensuring that women continue in school, even when they are pregnant.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa