EULOGY BY KWAZULU-NATAL PREMIER SIHLE ZIKALALA DURING THE SPECIAL OFFICIAL FUNERAL OF FORMER KWAZULU-NATAL PREMIER DR BALDWIN “BEN” SIPHO NGUBANE HELD IN NGWELEZANE COMMUNITY HALL ON SUNDAY 18 JULY 2021.
The Ngubane Family;
The Mbatha Family;
The Buthelezi Family;
My Dear Sisters and Brothers, the children of Dr Ngubane;
The Mayor of King Cetshwayo District Cllr. B.L. Phungula;
Representatives of Political Parties;
MPs, MPLs and Councillors;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Principal SAPS Chaplain Rev. P.L.P. Gumede;
Leadership of the South African Police Services;
Mr Randal Pedro the Manager of Melomed Hospital in Richards Bay;
Compatriots, Comrades and Friends;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Good Morning to you all.
Modesty is neither a sign of weakness nor cowardice, but a true composite blend of respect, discipline and professionalism.
I say this as a summation of the eulogy of the life lived and always advanced by Dr Baldwin “Ben” Sipho Ngubane.
On this significant Day when the world commemorates the life of former President Nelson Mandela, we gathered here to commit the mortal remains of Dr “Ben” Ngubane whose illustrious life was a reflection of what humankind deserves if the world is to enjoy peace, compassion and prosperity.
FARE THEE WELL! TO A MAN OF VISION AND OPTIMISM
So, we say Fare Thee Well! to Dr “Ben” Ngubane, a man who was always propelled a vision and optimism which steered him around numerous obstacles in his path. His was a character of multiple layers, many of which we are unable to peel today.
As a teenager Dr Ngubane left Intshanga for St Francis College aboard the dream of a better life.
He left that valley of a thousand hills betting that one day there would be freedom and equality not for a few, but for the millions of South Africans.
Born in the midst of apartheid in 1942, Dr N Ngubane entered the Catholic institution of St Francis College in Mariannhill in 1964. To this day, the motto of St Francis College remains the Latin dictum of “Ora et Labora”, which means “Pray and Work”. It is this Catholic notion of constant application, hardwork and deep spirituality that were to leave a lasting mark in the young Baldwin Ngubane’s life.
He graduated as medical doctor in 1971. Always keen to attain the highest standard possible in 1986 he obtained his Masters in Family Medicine and Primary Health from the Natal Medical School.
It was these seeds that grew to give us Dr Ngubane the Medical Doctor, Premier, Minister, Global Diplomat and untiring corporate guerrilla all in one person, in one lifetime.
It is no doubt that these values enabled Dr Ngubane to attain that which in the beginning, may have seemed unattainable.
It was at St Francis College in 60s where he met and befriended Mosioua Terror Lekota, Selby Baqwa and one Steven Bantu Biko. The friendship with Baqwa formerly Public Protector and Lekota.
But it is the encounter with Steven Bantu Biko that perhaps left a more dramatic impression in Dr Ngubane’s youth.
As he left St Francis College for the Natal Medical School, together with Biko Dr Ngubane would join up with leaders like Strini Moodley, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as firebrands for the Black Consciousness movement.
The South African Students Organisation(SASO) under Biko’s guidance would influence the 16June1976 Uprisings and general political life in South Africa. Many of its former members are today leaders of political parties and leaders of society in many sectors across the ideological divide.
Dr Ngubane considered his years with SASO as the key foundation stones of his educational and life-time political commitments.
As a member of the IFP Dr Ngubane served in the Legislative Assembly and from 1991-1994 was Minister of Health for the homeland of KwaZulu.
Following the country’s first democratic vote in 1994, Dr Ngubane was appointed by President Nelson Mandela as Minister of Arts Culture Science and Technology. He left the post to become Premier of KwaZulu-Natal in 1997.
DR NGUBANE AT THE CENTRE OF A PEACEFUL KWAZULU-NATAL, A PEACEFUL SOUTH AFRICA
In times of violent tensions in the province between the ANC and the IFP Dr Ngubane’s reputation grew as a moderate and conscience for permanent peace with the ANC.
It was apt that a senior member of the ANC described Dr Ngubane as follows: “He has an unsettling aptitude to get to the crux of the matter with uncanny speed and accuracy.”
It was this ability that in 1994 President Nelson Mandela rewarded when he appointed Dr Ngubane Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology.
Only two years into Dr Ngubane’s five-year term, he was recalled to the province to become Premier of KwaZulu Natal. As a medical doctor, Dr Ngubane looked beyond healing the ailing and suffering people of our country, but he also wanted to heal the country by fighting against racial inequality and injustice prevalent at the time.
In this role he made a bold commitment to promote peace and to end violence in the province and also to reduce the crime rate. Dr Ngubane was a peace negotiator par excellence, who built bridges between warring ANC and IFP factions. His interventions led to lasting peace in the province.
Dr Ngubane’s peace-building missions turned sworn enemies into friends who sat across the table and were prepared to smoke the proverbial peace pipe. Speaking to the media about his premiership in 1997, Dr Ngubane called on all parties to lower the temperature. He said and I quote: “IFP-ANC talks are important: we must work together to lower tension and increase tolerance. What has also helped greatly is the tone of the rhetoric coming down from the politicians. The government is no longer permissive.”
Because of his commitment to peace and his astute and modest leadership, he found himself isolated by those who did not want peace and cooperation amongst Africans in particular.
In addition to peace, Dr Ngubane displayed a singular commitment to education as a tool for liberation and as a means out of poverty.
He said and quote:
“What we actually need is training, training, and more training. Not just excellence in higher education, but perhaps even more important, training for artisans, plumbers, mechanics and other intermediate skills.”
In saying this, Dr Ben Ngubane wanted us to build a country not only protected from violence, but equally equipped with the youth that possesses critical skills for the economy or to work for themselves.
DIPLOMAT AND CHAMPION OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AND THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
As Minister of Science and Technology Dr Ngubane was helping South Africa leapfrog the stages of development to enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As he became the chairperson of the Commonwealth Science Council Dr Ngubane was also assigned the task of leading 54 countries in the promotion and advancement of science.
In the same year in 2000, he became chairperson of ComNet, the Commonwealth organization that promotes computer, Internet, and web technology adoption among its member nations.
South Africa indeed made many leaps during the tenure of Dr Ngubane as Minister. It was under Dr Ngubane’s leadership that South Africa embarked on the development of the now famous international astronomy program.
Today South Africa is a global leader and hosts the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) field station in Sutherland. SALT is the largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere and is Africa’s Giant Eye on the Universe.
Dr Ngubane continued his advancement of South Africa’s science and technology presence when he was appointed South Africa’s Ambassador to Japan.
In this role from 2004 to 2008 Dr Ngubane strengthened our bilateral links with Japan, the land of the rising sun and centuries of Emperors.
For his contribution to relations between the two countries, the Japanese awarded Dr Ngubane the prestigious Grand Cordon of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun. This award was given by His Majesty Emperor Akihito himself.
The citation states that this was for Dr Ngubane’s contribution “to the enhancement of the relationship and the cooperation in science and technology between Japan and South Africa.
KEEPING ONE’S HEAD POINTED TOWARD THE SUN, ONE’S FEET MOVING FORWARD.
Until the day he passed away, a few months before his 80birthday, Dr Ngubane never stopped moving. He kept one foot in front of the other.
We heard from Melamed today of Dr Ngubane’s unending energy as advisor to the Richards Bay-based hospital group. When the state-owned companies Eskom and the South African Broadcasting Corporation required his services, Dr Ngubane availed himself to the nation in a time of great crisis.
CORONA VIRUS LAYS CLAIM TO A NATIONAL TREASURE
It is indicative of the sign of our strange times that we are losing doctors to the Covid-19 virus. Dr Ngubane is one of a number of high-profile leaders in the country that we have lost to the corona virus.
COVID-19 has robbed our country of a distinguished leader, patriarch of the Ngubane family, friend, a loving husband, father, uncle, grandfather, dedicated mentor, and easy-going friend.
Ultimately, it was to you that Dr Baldwin “Ben” Sipho Ngubane was born on the 21stOctober 1941 through the progeniture of Gadelenzima Alfred and Annastacia kaYiZekwa MaGumede Ngubane.
It is the families of his five siblings, Cathathrine Ngcobo, Fr JB Ngubane, Enerstine Kunene, Ernest Ngubane & Harriet Ngubane whose flesh today has been torn asunder.
To you Mama Sheila, your now adult children, grandchildren, the nieces and nephews and many relatives we convey our deepest condolences.
As we bid farewell to a champion of peace and progress, we make a solemn vow that tranquility must reign in the hills of Intshanga, Mariannhill, Phoenix, Umlazi, Inanda, Soweto and other places which have been besieged by violent destruction and wanton looting.
The values of hard work and commitment to educational excellence displayed by Dr Ngubane must ring in our ears. Those who have looted have stolen the labour and investment and sweat of others. They must know that theirs has been a criminal act which has set our province back several years.
The acts of the looters have resulted in damage worth tens of billions of rands. Their acts have also set the efforts of peace backwards, helping many communities to return to the laager of racism. The values of our founding fathers and mothers have been undermined.
In memory of Dr Ngubane and those who fought hard for our freedom, let us refrain from looting retail stores and warehouses. These acts undermine the rule of law, and they have no purpose but to derail the path to a non-racial, non- sexist and democratic future.
The mayhem will worsen poverty, inequality and unemployment which currently ravage our country and province.
At the same time, as government we have been rudely reminded about the dangers of what President Thabo Mbeki described as the tale of two economies, one that is rich and developed, and other that is poor and underdeveloped.
The untimely demise of Dr Ben Ngubane has left our province and our country poorer. We are however richer for having shared his fruitful and remarkable life with him on earth.
As the flags across the country fly at half mast, we bow our heads in collective honour and tribute to this distinguished so of the soil who reached the lofty heights of his dreams.
This honour is truly a recognition of a life well- lived in the service of our nation through its strongest and weakest moments. This is our nation’s fitting tribute to one of its foremost nation-builders and pioneering leaders.
Again, we convey our heartfelt condolences to the Ngubane and Mbatha Families, Relatives and the Children and Grandchildren, Nieces and Nephews for this loss.
In particular we pay special tribute to Mama Sheila, Dr Ngubane’s wife for the loss of your life partner and confidante. To you this is personal and must hurt very deeply.
Our presence here is to re-assure you that the loss you feel is also felt by the country and the province from which this son of the soil was born and bred.
May you please find solace and consolation from the Gospel of John Chapter 14, verses 1 to 4 which read as follows:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. …. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going”.
Sithi hamba kahle Mbomvu, Ngcukumane, Somahhashi.
Uyibekile induku ebandla Ngcwingcw’ephuza kwezinde iziziba ngoba kwezingashoni ibuya nodaka.
Hamba kahle vathu oluphezulu ngoba oluphansi ngolwabafokazane.
Phumula ukuphumula kwafuthi
Ukukhaya kwaphakade kukhanyele;