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Premier Sihle Zikalala: Eulogy at the funeral service of former Premier, Dr Frank Mdlalose

8 Apr 2021

Eulogy by Kwazulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala during the state funeral of former KZN Premier, DR FT Mdlalose in eMadadeni on Thursday, 8 April 2021

The family of Dr FT Mdlalose;
Umntwana wakwa Phindangene, Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi;
Leaders and Representatives of various political parties;
Members of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature;
Leadership of the Church;
Leadership of the South African Police Service;
The community of Newcastle and surrounding areas;
Fellow Mourners;

Darkness descended on our province when the angel of death robbed us of KwaZulu-Natal’s first democratically elected Premier, Dr Frank Themba Mdlalose, while we were preparing to commemorate 27 years of democracy in South Africa.

The shocking and shattering blow is made unbearable and painful by the fact that uBaba uNyanda took his last breath while we were still mourning the untimely passing of iSilo samaBandla, early on March 12.

UBaba uNyanda, who was a devout and devoted Christian and a warrior of peace, took his last breath the day before the resurrection of the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ.

We send our heartfelt condolences to the Mdlalose family, his son Themba, daughters uMakhosazana and Lindiwe; as well as his grandchildren.

May the good Lord offer strength and courage to the family to help them to cope with the loss and heal from grief. We would like to take this opportunity to wish Mrs Mdlalose, uMama uMasikhosana, a speedy recovery as she currently battles the ravages of her illness in hospital.

To Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, we also wish to convey our heartfelt sympathies to you personally Shenge. We are aware of the long journey you have travelled together over many years including the time of the formation of Inkatha Yesizwe in 1975.

To His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa, we convey our sincere gratitude for granting a provincial funeral, a fitting send-off for a struggle veteran of Baba uNyanda’s calibre.

The giant and gentleman who strode the streets of eMadadeni and Newcastle like a colossus has eternally ceased to walk.

He may be gone but his memory and legacy will always live on in our hearts. It lives on in the street, which is named after him, where his house still stands.

Whenever we walk down Dr FT Mdlalose Street, it will take us down a political and historical memory lane which will remind us of the sacrifices uNyanda made so that the people of South Africa finally attained freedom.

Dr Mdlalose is immortalised in the numerous crèches and clinics he was instrumental in building around Newcastle during his tenure as a medical doctor and later as a mayor of Madadeni under the erstwhile KwaZulu Government.

We will always think of Dr Mdlalose whenever the name of eMadadeni College of Education is mentioned. His memory still lives on in Siyamukela Comprehensive School, which is famous for producing excellent results in the Amajuba District.

UBaba uNyanda was instrumental in the establishment of eMadadeni College of Education, which is now an FET College and Siyamukela Comprehensive School. As a gifted, ex-science teacher, his legacy lives on in the lives of the multitudes of his former students.

Throughout his life, he maintained he was human first and part of the human family before his many other identities. His name will remain etched in the history books because of what he has done for the Newcastle community and many more across our province.

The poet Thomas Campbell echoes our thoughts on Nyanda’s immortality when he wrote that, “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dr Mdlalose was a dedicated servant of the people who offered his services to the people irrespective of which political party they belong to. He believed fervently that peace was a necessary condition not only for successful national and provincial elections, but for the socio-economic development of the people of the province that had to follow.

As KwaZulu-Natal’s first Premier and former ambassador to Egypt, uBaba uNyanda rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty, but he did not forget his roots or leave behind his community to live in affluent suburbs. He decided to live among his people in a township so that he could be easily accessible when the community required his essential services and guidance.

Akulona ihaba uma silila sithi uwile umuthi omkhulu obuwumthombo wokuthula noxolo esifundazweni sethu nasezweni lonke. Yize umdali amgcine wambusisa yonke leminyaka, besingakalindeli ukuthi uzovala amehlo athule ingunaphakade. Siyisifundazwe sizithola singumtshingo ubethwa ngubani ngokushiywa nguBaba uNyanda ngoba besisalindele ukuncela kakhulu embeleni wakhe ogwansile.

We are eternally grateful as the provincial government that he ably led the government of National Unity in the province after our first elections in 1994.

It was under his leadership as Premier that the first bricks of a developmental state was laid in KwaZulu-Natal. It was no easy feat in a climate of political tensions, violence, and general mistrust between the political parties.

From scratch in May 1994, he had to lead our multi-party provincial government in forging one unified provincial government from two strong governments: the KwaZulu Government and the Natal Provincial Government. He also had to incorporate the House of Delegates and the House of Representatives into one provincial government. These changes had to be applied in various departments like education and health which previously were fragmented and serving people on racial basis.

It was under him that we began to make progress in working with our traditional leaders and in asserting the role of the Zulu Royal House under our beloved iSilo.

UBaba uNyanda will always be fondly remembered as a gentleman par excellence who listened keenly and gave appropriate advice when consulted.

While gentleness was his character, he was nonetheless brave, courageous and firm.

We know him as a stickler to detail, a disciple of truth, and an enemy of double-speak and half-truths.

Blessed with a sharp intellect, very few could win an argument with him. Soft spoken and measured, he was articulate; and like an experienced scientist, he could disarm his opponents by providing evidence or facts to advance or argue his case.

His friends, colleagues and political adversaries admired him for always being a frank person. Following his name Frank, Dr Mdlalose was an open book – you always knew where he stood. And yes, he was in the habit of joking and saying, “I am frank like that.”

And true to his name “Themba”, in the abyss of despair, he would always declare that it was from the well of “hope eternal” that he drank and sustained himself.

Dr Mdlalose sits among the rare breed of public servants and leaders who sacrificed their potentially lucrative careers as full-time medical doctors to dedicate their lives to politics. By so doing, he entered a world of uncertainty, which was marked by twists and turns.

It is evident from his autobiography, My Life: The Autobiography of Dr FT Mdlalose, the First Premier of KwaZulu-Natal; that uNyanda overcame all obstacles stacked against him when he qualified as a medical doctor, showing that it was practical and possible for a young man from rural Nquthu to defy the odds and reach for the stars.

Asked by a Nquthu shop owner, a Mr B Diamond, what Nyanda wanted to be in life, he told Mr Diamond that he wanted to be a medical doctor, to which Mr Diamond responded: “What? You want to be a doctor like Mr Barker? Impossible!”

He reflects his disappointment in his book, saying:

“Mr Diamond indicated that he was sure that a black man like me could not study and qualify in medicine. This was a painful sting to my whole personality. From then on I was determined to prove Mr Diamond wrong.”

Unbeknown to Mr Diamond, his discouraging words became motivation for uBaba uNyanda to excel in his medical studies.

In hindsight, we probably should doff our hats to Mr Diamond who in his belittling, ended unearthing this precious diamond in uBaba uNyanda, who went on to become a doyen of the medical profession and a pride of the black community.

In the racist South Africa that Dr Mdlalose grew in, he still could not evade racial discrimination despite his education and standing in the black community. Married, he would still be called “boy” in segregated queues. He refused to crack or be broken by the system. In a 1997 interview, he recalls one incident that stayed with him for the rest of his life. Let me quote him verbatim:

“I can tell you how bad I felt when I was detained in one town for hours on end, where I was being questioned about where I had stolen the car, and I as a doctor being put into a situation where some other doctor, white doctor, must come and find out whether I am a doctor or what not. Humiliation of the worst order and being kept in a little place with bicycles all around me. ”

With all the racial torment he faced like the rest of the black community, Dr Mdlalose refuse to be consumed by bitterness or hatred. He remained a devoted non-racialist and dedicated nation builder.

Our father, Ubaba uNyanda, departs at a time when we see racism and racial intolerance still raising its ugly head. He must have been pained to hear about abuses and rising tensions between black farm workers and white farm owners, especially in this district.

He would definitely have been concerned about cases of the exploitation of black workers by employers and foreign nationals, including Asian nationals, in the textile industry in areas like Newcastle and Ladysmith.

As a medical doctor, he would have wished to stich, heal, and comfort the many women who face violence from their partners.

As a former medical doctor who fought tooth and nail to combat TB, his knowledge and wisdom would have come in handy as we still fight the Covid-19, TB and AIDS .

In honour of his memory and legacy, we need to rise to destroy social ills like the abuse of drugs which is stealing away the future of the children of Newcastle. We cannot afford to have communities being terrorised by our children who have organised themselves into gangs like ‘The Juveniles’ and the ‘Last Warnings’.

We appeal to the youth of Newcastle and KwaZulu-Natal to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones to a brighter future. Like uBaba Nyanda, they must learn to turn lemon into lemonade which will quench their quest and thirst for education and success.

We urge the youth of eMadadeni and the whole of South Africa to emulate Dr Mdlalose by taking education seriously, as a tool that will go a long way in eradicating the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Ladies and gentlemen, uBaba uNyanda entered the medical profession to heal diseased souls and bodies but to his amazement he discovered that the country also needed healing from the shackles of bondage and oppression, from which it reeled.

As he puts, he was drawn to politics not for any material rewards, but because he had “a flair of sympathy with the downtrodden.”

As a medical student, he put into action his political prowess which was shaped and sharpened at the iconic Fort Hare University and through the radical ANC Youth League.

He reveals in a 1990 interview that, “the ANC and Inkatha have one goal: liberation of blacks in South Africa”. He conceded that the major difference between our two organisations was in the methods of attaining this goal of national liberation.

As a student representative at the segregated medical school in Durban for African and Indian students, Dr Mdlalose once attended the conference of the Association of Medical Students of South Africa which was also attended by students from one of the Afrikaans-medium medical schools.

At the end of the conference, an Afrikaans-speaking medical student heaped praise on Dr Mdlalose for his superior intelligence.

The student is reported to have said, and I quote: "This is the first time I have met a black man with an intelligence equal to, or superior to, my own.”

Although condescending, this admission attests to uBaba Nyanda’s brilliance. In this regard, we pay tribute to him for not allowing his superior intellect go to his head by undermining other people. With his humble nature, he willingly shared his knowledge and intelligence with those who wanted to drink from his fountain of wisdom.

His wisdom and negotiation skills helped to resolve the bus boycott which rocked Newcastle in the 1970s while he was the Mayor of eMadadeni. The boycott, which had turned ugly and violent, eventually came to an amicable end, thanks to uBaba uNyanda’s timely intervention.

As the former Minister of Interior in the KwaZulu Government, uBaba uNyanda fiercely opposed the forced removal of people from farms, a perennial problem we still face today. As we meet the farming community this weekend in this area to help resolve persistent challenges, we will draw from the example of Dr Mdlalose.

Dr Mdlalose was not the kind of leader who fiddled while the country was burning.

The period of the late 1980s to the 1990s marked a painful era in the life of KwaZulu-Natal, witnessing wanton destruction and some of the most violent confrontation between the ANC and the IFP.

This period required the calm and visionary leadership of leaders on either side such as Nelson Mandela and the strategic intervention of people such as Dr Mdlalose in KwaZulu-Natal.

After the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, Dr Mdlalose worked tirelessly with a number of ANC leaders in efforts to stop the violence between ANC and Inkatha supporters. Dr Mdlalose served as a member of the National Peace Committee, an organ of multiple parties which sought to cement peace in the country and especially KwaZulu-Natal.

In 1991 uBaba uNyanda, together with then ANC Chairperson of Southern Natal, Cde Jacob Zuma, led the first peace efforts between our two parties when they set up the Peace and Reconstruction Foundation. This was the first foundation stone laid for peace that up to this day prevails between the ANC and the IFP.

Unfazed by being labelled sell-outs by individuals in their respective parties, Dr Mdlalose and former President Zuma worked hand in hand to extinguish the raging flames of political, which pitted relatives against relatives, siblings against siblings, neighbours against neighbours.

Dr Mdlalose recalled how despite the doubting Thomases, they forged ahead and set an example for both supporters of the ANC and the IFP. He recalls that:

“Again and again we were quoted, again and again we were seen going on a rainy day at one time, holding hands together and slipping around in the rain and having the car getting stuck, we were both in one car, and that again was revealed and we were together.”

When Dr Mdlalose resigned as Premier of KwaZulu-Natal in 1997, his co-peace pilot, former President Zuma bade him farewell, saying:

“We almost at one time became fire extinguishers in the province, moved into very angry crowds of both the IFP and the ANC, walked in rain and drove in muddy places in an attempt to bring peace to this province.

You did not doubt when you worked with Nyanda. Whatever you discussed was taken seriously, and it was not easy. Angry supporters of the ANC and the IFP did not always see things the same way as the leaders did… Nyanda is the kind of a leader we need to learn from.”

Indeed in Dr Mdlalose we have lost a bridge builder who was prepared to put aside political differences to achieve peace between the fighting factions. Naturally as a person who trained to save lives, he was averse to violence and always said he wished violence had not even been started. He was an outstanding peace ambassador who looked ahead to political solutions instead of focusing on what lay between him and his political rivals.

Let us honour uNyanda by emulating his rare feat of being a unifier even when odds were stacked against him. Like him, let us be champions of peace and avoid incidents that might lead to bloodbath and bloodletting.

Let us bid uBaba uNyanda in his own words which were delivered in his poetic farewell speech as Premier of KwaZulu-Natal:

“To you I am grateful.

For hopes of peace I cherished and strove for,

You walked bravely and steadfastly with me

You helped me weather the storms

And we collectively succeeded

To rekindle love for one another

Sweet memories I take with me,

A wealth of wisdom and wit will forever resound.

Mr Speaker, it is now my treasured honour to thank you dearly

And to bid this House and the Province farewell.”

We are grateful for the memories Nyanda. As we bid you eternal farewell, nathi sithi:

Hamba kahle Nyanda wephahla,Khwenta, Madlula, Mgabashe, Phangakufa, Dikane,

Wena wephahla elinhloko-nhle,

Sphungulo say'Ongoye,

Magutshwa laph'engefekhona,

Wena kanhlangothi zibomvu amanxeba,

Wena webhaca elithanda impi ngoba ladla uDayi kaSkhova!

Uyibekile induku ebandla!

Ngiyabonga!

Province: 

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