Eulogy for Ambassador Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Methodist Calvary Church, Halfway House, Midrand, 26 January 2019
Former President Thabo Mbeki and former first lady Sis Zanele Mbeki
Colleagues, Honourable Cabinet Ministers here gathered;
Members of the National Executive Committee of our glorious movement;
Members of Parliament;
Honourable MECs and members of the provincial legislatures;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Members of the Media;
Allow me from the onset to extend the apologies of the President and Deputy President of the Republic, their wishes were that either one of them would have delivered this important eulogy. However matters beyond their control have myself undertaking the task in their stead. Their desire to deliver this eulogy is motivated by the man that Ambassador Kumalo was.
His stature in our society is confirmed by the overwhelming flood of messages of condolences and sympathy the family, ourselves, and the missions abroad have received from all corners of the world.
Ntombikayise, Henry, the children and grandchildren, we echo those words of condolences and wish to also offer our words of gratitude for you having borrowed to our struggle this dedicated activist and great son of the soil.
Sithi alwehlanga lungehlanga!!!
Indeed, the passing of Ambassador Kumalo has left all of us in deep shock. Slowly, the second generation of the founding fathers of our glorious movement, have left us. Today we bid farewell to a convocant of the next generation of freedom fighters, whose activism blossomed during the Black Consciousness era of our struggle. Ambassador Kumalo was a living testament that black people always had a suppressed consciousness of their being and plight.
He himself came from a rich lineage of freedom fighters entrusted with the emissary role by our great leaders. King Mzilikazi wakwa Khumalo being one of the most eminent. King Mzilikazi left the great nation of King Shaka Ka Senza Ngakhona after having served as a Lieutenant General. His departure was motivated by the desire to avoid what would have been a catastrophic bloodbath. His trek saw him establishing diplomatic relations with nations such as the Basotho, before finally settling and establishing the Kingdom of Matebele in what we now know as Kwa Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
We detail this history not only because we want to show our intertwined history with the people of Zimbabwe, but because the lineage of Ambassador Kumalo displays that his heritage equipped him with the basic intuitive fighting spirit he utilised throughout his life.
Fellow mourners, it is no coincidence that Amb Kumalo’s initial political consciousness was ignited at the Wilberforce Community College. The college was established by a founding mother of the African National Congress’s Women’s League. One Mam Charlotte Maxeke, with the very purpose of igniting the consciousness of the African child and in pursuance of patriotism, knowledge and unity amongst the oppressed masses.
In those days Wilberforce and many other schools had all streams of education under one roof, in one stream was teacher training, in another the artists and painters, and in another those pursuing agriculture, commerce and the trades. There was indeed a cross pollination of knowledge and experiences which produced well rounded students, capable of playing a meaningful role in society. Of prime importance in these institutions was the pursuit of spirituality, hard work, compassion, solidarity and patriotism.
This educational excellence foundation is an important feature in what shaped what Ambassador Kumalo became. It also accounts for his lifelong pursuit of knowledge and its impartation. I also suppose this accounts for his love for poetry and Persian poet Rumi in particularly whose poems he always kept under arm.
Just as Rumi advised, Ambassador Kumalo did all things from his soul. As Rumi said “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving you”.
The combination of having been rooted in the Wilberforce way which promotes compassion and his deep sense of the pursuance of justice must have motivated Ambassador Kumalo to become a journalist. He would eventually become one of the founding members of the Union of Black Journalists, which was at the forefront of the famous 1977 Black Wednesday campaign. Which campaign coupled with his running’s with the unjust Apartheid state apparatus eventually necessitated that he skips the country into exile.
With his education, articulateness, and experience, which included him having been the first African Marketing Executive for a large multinational oil company, Ambassador Kumalo could have taken up asylum in the United States and pursued his trade. But he chose to continue the fight to isolate the Apartheid government using one of the four pillars of the liberation movements, that of international solidarity. His activism and role as projects Director for the American Committee for Africa and the Africa Fund led, as we have heard, to a more proactive American population and Congress thus securing for us dedicated allies in the fight against Apartheid.
We have heard of the Regan veto reversal of 1986, as well as the Coca Cola Boycott which he led. Even as he pressed on he was ever conscious of the interdependence and correlation amongst the four pillars of our struggle especially as it related to the internal machinery and international solidarity. He is famously known to have said “punitive sanctions… are not the best course of action, they hurt the very people they are intended to help”.
Fellow mourners, principled was the man who was Ambassador Kumalo. Almost eighteen years after the Regan Veto reversal when confronted with the matter of Iraq in the UN Security Council, he maintained the same principle. He said:
“Organisations like the UN were founded to preserve peace, not to support wars. The UN needs to focus more on helping poor people. That is why it would be a shame if there is a war…If this war goes on it means the price of oil goes through the roof. It is the poor people who rely on paraffin who will suffer. It will be the farmers who rely on diesel... War for us is a non-starter."
That is why we relied on Ambassador Kumalo in the United Nations for over a decade. We were certain that he was unshakable in maintaining the principles by which our liberation movement and democracy is founded.
I have said he was larger than life, even in those cold corridors in the United Nations. His belting laughter could be heard across and beyond the walls. He approached every task with the same vigour be it chairing the Non Aligned Movement or the Security Council or the G77 + China consultations or the various missions he undertook to places like East Timor. Ambassador Kumalo had inordinate interpersonal skills and the ability to befriend and unite either side of the negotiation table. He was equally loved and revered by friend and foe.
Every delegation from every department would return with the same tale, he was a strict and uncompromising task master who was a stickler for time and dress code. He was known to seek only high quality from everyone, and once all work and tasks were completed he served the best meals and wine that side of the Atlantic, despite having given up the bottle since 1977.
Full of life and humble, Ambassador Kumalo knew by name every security and cleaning personnel at our mission and in the United Nations. Often inquiring about their families and their progress in life, much to the irritation of many a delegation as this would often hold them up in the long walks to the General Assembly and meeting rooms.
We could have not chosen a better representative to protect and promote the interests of our nation and continent.
We have spoken of the overwhelming messages we received following the news of Ambassador Kumalo’s passing. One such message came from the President of Western Sahara and SG of the POLOSARIO President Brahim Gali, who says “Ambassador Kumalo worked wholeheartedly to promote and defend African interests and issues, including his passionate and firm support for the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and freedom. [We are] grateful to his steadfast and principled positions, we would like to pay tribute to his great moral qualities and dedication”.
Ambassador Kumalo was a citizen of the world and yet he spent most of his time imparting knowledge and inspiring the youth of our nation. In our Department of Foreign Affairs there is what is colloquially known as the “University of Dumisani Kumalo” whose members are now placed throughout the world and are no doubt further imparting knowledge. We have heard on how his main preoccupation as the CEO of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation was the establishment of the TMALI, he was conscious that the struggle in not over and that a new crop of bright, educated and skilled African leaders will be needed in our journey to transform our country and grow our continent.
Despite his vast knowledge on several subjects and issues, he was always ready to learn and listen. No time of day was too early or too late, Ambassador Kumalo was always the reassuring voice and counsellor on the other side of the line.
Ambassador Kumalo was also a disciplined cadre who also made gender equality his business, even if it meant diverting from the towing the line. One such occasion was in his having discarded recommendations from one of our departments in favour of Justice Navanethem Pillay as the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Indeed he always stood on the side of principle, no matter what the consequences could have been.
What does one say when so bright a flame is extinguished?
One takes comfort in that one was privileged to have known and worked with him.
One takes consolation in the knowledge that thousands have received knowledge and guidance from Ambassador Kumalo and so he lives amongst and in those he has touched.
One takes relief in the knowledge that the principles by which Ambassador Kumalo lived by remain an important guiding star to ours and future generations.
Mntungwa the bells have rung, your welcoming reception by our departed heroes and heroines is in session.
Let them know that we remain steadfast in our mission to grow South Africa together, towards the total liberation of all African people on the continent.
We will not rest until the skills revolution sweeps our country and continent, securing a better life for all our people.
We will not rest until the Saharawi people are free and until our continent knows peace and the guns are silenced.
We shall not rest on our laurels until a just and transformed world is reached where no African child knows any hunger and malnutrition, but is in command of his or her destiny through the mastery of education and his or her talent.
Let the welcoming reception know that we are steadily marching on and we are at the hill’s foot of the realisation of a more just and equitable world, as South Africa, once again, assumes her rightful seat at the United Nations Security Council. We will not rest until the global governance systems are fully representative of our world. So that we in the developing world and on the continent constitute a significant and meaningful constituency in those levers of power.
Let them know that our first ten year plan towards Agenda 2063 is under implementation and that the restoration of the dignity of our people is well underway. We will not be deterred by Afro-pessimists and those who wish to see our Agenda fail. We are determined, more than ever before, that through our joint efforts South Africa shall grow and Africa will unite, be prosperous, and peaceful as our forbearers directed.
Lala Ngoxolo Mfan’ Kithi. Mntungwa!!!