President Cyril Ramaphosa: Eulogy at the Special Official Funeral of King Zwelonke Mpendulo Sigcau

29 Nov 2019

Eulogy by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Special Official Funeral of His Majesty, King Zwelonke Mpendulo Sigcau, Nqadu Royal Palace, Willowvale

Programme Directors,
The Acting King of the AmaXhosa Nation, Nkosi Dumehleli Mapasa,
The Sigcawu Royal Family,
Your Majesties,
Former President Thabo Mbeki,
Ministers and Members of Parliament,
Premier of the Eastern Cape, Mr Oscar Mabuyane,
Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Ikosi Mahlangu, Ndzundza!
National Officials of the Governing Party, the African National Congress,
Leaders of various political parties,
President of Contralesa, Kgoshi Mathupa Mokoena,
Members of the National and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders,
Traditional Leaders,
Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures,
Local government representatives,
Members of the Judiciary,
Members of Chapter 9 Institutions,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Leaders of religious and business,
Officers and members of the SANDF,

Mandibulele elithuba siliphiweyo loku beka amazwi avela kuRhulumente.

Mandibulele naku rhulumente walapha ephondweni lase Mpuma Koloni ngokuwuthabathela phezulu lomsebenzi wokuwa kukaKumakani, bacele ukuba le nkonzo yakhe yokugqibela ichotshelwe nguRhulumente.

Okokugqibela mandibulelel kusapho lakwa Sigcawu ngokusivumela singuRhulumente ukuba sisebene nabo ukuququzelela lomcimbi one sidima kangaka.

It is with heavy hearts that we gather here today to bid final farewell to our king His Majesty Mpendulo Calvin Sigcawu.

Ah Zwelonke!

The news of His Majesty’s untimely passing came as a great shock, and even today we feel its weight upon us.

A cloud of sadness has descended upon the AmaXhosa nation and on the entire South African nation.

It was for this reason and out of respect of His Majesty that we declared that our nation’s flag should be flown at half-mast throughout the length and the breath of the country.

We have lost a great leader.

His majesty’s passing is a reminder of the shortness of our life on this earth.

It is a reminder to us to spend our time wisely, in performing good deeds, and in being of service to others as His Majesty did.

Amakhosi noKumkani are the repository, guardians, keepers, custodians, promoters and protectors of our collective history, customs, languages and culture.

They are the great umbilical link that connects us to our past, keeps us rooted to our present and guides us to our future.

The Sigcawu family has lost a husband, a father, a brother and a friend.

As a nation we have lost a respected leader who was a pillar of the community and a solid partner of our government.

Si ngatsho ukuthi uwile umthi omkhulu.

On behalf of the people of South Africa I extend my deepest condolences to the Royal family and to the AmaXhosa people.

We are saddened, but we know that no matter how much we wish to, we cannot hold back the hand of fate.

It was His Majesty’s time to leave us.

And as we are reminded in Ecclesiastes 3:

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.”

But he has left behind a legacy of visionary leadership that lives on.

He may have passed on to the next life, but the example he set on the meaning of leadership, on advancing social cohesion, and on service to one’s fellow man and woman, will be imparted beyond his brief time on earth.

We have lost a leader whose impact and influence extended beyond our borders.

The tributes that have poured in from Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Palestine, Venezuela and many other countries are proof of how he was not only recognised but revered by others beyond our country.

We are immensely comforted by the condolences and messages of support. Such gestures of solidarity go a long way in affirming our oneness as Africans.

His Majesty ascended the throne on January 24th 2006.

Fourteen years ago he was the first king to be recognised in the democratic era as part of our effort to restore traditional leadership after it was undermined and ravaged by colonial rule.

This was a great moment, to reconstitute ourselves as a people, to reclaim our humanity, our cultures, traditions and belief systems, and our very soul as a nation.

He was the son of Mzikayise Xolilizwe, son of Zwelidumile, who was the son of Sarhili who was the son of Hintsa, a lineage of the House of Phalo – a House that has over the centuries produced gallant warriors who fought land dispossession, mistreatment, humiliation, imprisonment and the slaughter of innocent people, whose only sin was having a different skin colour and defending what was rightfully theirs.

The role of AmaXhosa leaders in resisting colonialism inspired generations of freedom fighters who eventually led this country to freedom and democracy in 1994.

During apartheid, the people of this province fought the brutality of the system that deprived our people of land, and political and economic rights.

This province produced freedom fighters such as Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madizikela-Mandela, Water Sisulu, Albertina Sisulu, Oliver and Adelaide Tambo, Govern Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Chris Hani, Steve Tshwete and many others.

During his short reign, His Majesty distinguished himself in various ways.

He was an outspoken champion of transformation and development, and always forthright with his views; speaking truth to power at any given moment.

He was vocal about the need for increased constitutional responsibilities for traditional leaders and critical about government’s pace of service delivery, but remained a patriot and a proud South African.

Through his projects - the King Zwelonke Legacy Project and the King Zwelonke Foundation, he fervently championed community development, moral regeneration, education and agricultural projects.

At his 50th birthday celebrations last year, he was upfront about his disdain for flamboyance.

He believed that traditional leaders are servants of the people and should lead by example.

His Majesty was concerned about poverty among his people and promoted the establishment of cooperatives to reduce dependence on social grants.

This country needs more leaders like him; leaders who care about the welfare of the people first and foremost.

He was vocal about drugs and alcohol abuse, and he advocated passionately for youth development.

This week we launched the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence in Limpopo.

His Majesty believed firmly that women’s rights should be upheld.

During this period let us spread the message that women and girls are to be respected and protected and not abused.

King Zwelonke Sigcawu was a unifier.

With his progressive views he was following in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors.

The Xhosa nation has throughout its history distinguished itself as a home and a refuge for many groups fleeing persecution.

Across the expanses of this very land of the Xhosa live AmaBomvana, OoGaba and many others. Great warriors iinkosi zama Qiya lie interred in this soil.

His Majesty, like his forebears believed that among the duties of kingship was to promote inclusivity through culture, language and custom.

He further believed that none of these should be used as a means of exclusion, or that the amaXhosa kingdom should become a citadel of ethnic or racial purity.

The history of the amaXhosa kingdom bears witness to the acceptance and embrace of other groups in the region, united by a common language, isiXhosa.

This was not done by conquest but by voluntary association and assimilation, resulting in unity between different peoples.

One notes for example how marriages between different groups led to the forging of new alliances and the cementing of ties.

We know that the mother of iKumkani uNgubengcuka yaba Thembu was birthed by the daughter of Kumkani Khawuta.

And that the mother of Mhlontlo, the King of amaMpondomise was the daughter of Kumkani Sarhili.

Even iKumkani Tutor Ndamase Ah Nyangilizwe ! was born of a Xhosa matriarch.

In seeking to define itself and its identity, the amaXhosa nation has never shied away from the principle of inclusivity, tolerance and coexistence.

True to this legacy, His Majesty promoted harmony between the AmaRharhabe and AmaGcaleka.

He was an advocate for traditional leadership playing a greater role in national affairs.

In September this year, during the Tshivhidzo of Traditional Leaders in Mbombela in Mpumalanga, he clearly articulated the stance of traditional leaders on issues of land ownership and related issues.

His Majesty never hesitated to extend the hand of fraternity to other traditional houses.

His Majesty advocated for unity of the Xhosa people even beyond the borders of South Africa and undertook visits to neighbouring countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

When visiting countries experiencing economic difficulties King Zwelonke would take along a consignment of clothing, food parcels and other necessities to present to the needy.

He passionately hated tribalism and racism and was an ardent advocate of African unity.

For this he will be fondly remembered.

We know that services have been held in his memory in Gaborone in Botswana and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.

His Majesty believed in the protection, promotion and preservation of culture, and would regularly join celebrations of the culture of AmaXhosa during the Annual Carnival in the Western Cape.

The King supported ulwaluko and every year joined government, parents, community and civil society leaders and other practitioners in calling for safe initiations and for the abolition of illegal schools and bogus practitioners.

The deaths of 25 initiates during the winter initiation season this year – 17 from this province – is a painful chapter that we need to close.

We need to continue to carve our sons a safe passage to manhood.

In honouring his legacy, Government calls for zero deaths and incident free initiations starting from this summer season.

His Majesty understood too well the enduring impact of the bitter legacy of colonialism and apartheid on the consciousness of his people.

One of his most passionate causes was that of colonial reparations, and that the former colonisers should publicly acknowledge their role in the brutalisation and dispossession inflicted not just on AmaXhosa but on all national groups in South Africa.

Until the very end, he was engaging with government to get support for a mission to visit the British Royal Family to discuss the brutal killing of King Hintsa in 1835 and to lobby for the return of the King’s remains.

This noble mission reminds us of the reality that we still carry deep scars as a people, and wounds that have not yet healed.

We are still living with the effects of centuries of injustice wrought upon us by colonialism.

The issue of King Hintsa’s remains is a cause His Majesty’s successor will no doubt be taking forward.

Fellow mourners,

The King has left us when we still have much to do to transform this country.

We are going through difficult times as we seek to build the economy of our country.

Our people are suffering in unemployment and poverty.

Many role players are working together with us to grow our economy, and create more jobs for our people.

Since 1994, traditional leaders have worked side by side with government to drive rural development, to promote and to uplift communities.

We want to deepen our collaboration with traditional leaders in local government to ensure that it delivers on its promises to our people.

Just two months ago, I was here in the Eastern Cape to launch government’s new Khawuleza District Development Model that will transform our approach to delivering services and driving development in our localities.

Like we did in the OR Tambo District Municipality in September at the opening of the new Lusikisiki clinic, we will be bringing development to this district too.

We are going to bring better health care, better education, better water and sanitation and other services as government will be working in a much more integrated and co-operative manner.

As part of our national investment drive we are going to bring industries and businesses to our localities, and thereby create more jobs for our people, especially our young people.

It is a principle of this government that we will leave no community behind.

I am immensely saddened that His Majesty is no longer with us, for I have no doubt he would have been at the forefront of driving the Khawuleza model to uplift this community and open wide the doors to opportunity for its people.

We are indeed the poorer as a country at the loss of King Zwelonke.

The task before us now is to take his legacy forward, and to ensure that all he worked for has not been in vain.

Fellow Mourners,

We often ask ourselves, but what can I do?

We often express our own doubts and short comings when asked what we can do.

We say but I am not a king, or a queen, or a president.

What difference can I make?

I do not have anything to give.

In the life of His Majesty we have an example of one who said: this is what I have, this is what I can do, and I will put it to the service of my people.

The King said - here I am, send me.

May his life stand out as an example for us today as we work to transform and rebuild our country.

Today we mourn, but let us not lose spirit, for much remains to be done.

In the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses:

Though much is taken, much abidesAnd though we are not now that strength which in old days moved heaven and earth,That which we are, we are,One equal temperOf heroic hearts made weak by time and fateBut strong in will,To strive, to seek, to find,And not to yield.

Farewell, Your Majesty. Patriot. Leader. Heroic heart.

May your soul rest in eternal peace, and may you be welcomed in the next life as the Holy Bible says:

“Well done, good and faithful servant: Enter into the Joy of your Master.”

Masingathethi inxeba lise litsha, lise nzulu.

Let us not speak while the wound is still fresh and cuts deep.

I once again convey my deepest condolences to the entire AmaXhosa nation for your loss.

To the Sigcawu Royal Family this is a difficult time for you.

It may well be that all our words and speeches here today and in the past few days since his passing may be weak and fruitless attempts to comfort you from a grief of a loss so overwhelming.

I pray that God may assuage the pain and anguish of your bereavement and leave you only with the cherished memory of his Majesty, your loved son, husband, brother, and uncle.

Be comforted in the knowledge and pride that he has left behind a great legacy.

Akwehlanga lungehlanga.

Ah Zwelonke!
Ah Zwelonke!
Ah Zwelonke!

I thank you.

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