House Chair, I move without notice:
That the House -
1) notes with great sadness the death of former African National Congress Member of Parliament and former mayor of the West Rand Metropolitan Council, Sister Bernard Ncube, on 31 August 2012 at the age of 80;
2) further notes that Sister Bernard was an unconventional Roman Catholic Church nun, who dedicated her life to the struggle for freedom, equality, justice, human rights and democracy;
3) recalls that she had distinguished herself in the struggle for women's and children's rights in a remarkable manner, culminating in her presidency of the Federation of Transvaal Women;
4) further recalls that Sister Bernard suffered dearly for her convictions, being detained six times under state of emergency regulations, including once when she spent three months in solitary confinement in 1986;
5) acknowledges that she served in the National Assembly, where her leadership skills were realised when she was the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture; and
6) extends its heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Sister Bernard Ncube.
Mr House Chairperson, I stand here today to pay my respects to the late hon Sister Bernard Ncube. Unfortunately, truth be told, I have never had the privilege of meeting Sister Ncube, and I cannot bear personal witness to her selfless devotion towards the people of this country. However, as it is with so many great leaders of years gone by, we need not have known them personally in order to see the impact that their lives have had on our society.
At the funeral of the late John F Kennedy Jr in 1999, his brother said the following: "From the first day of his life, John seemed to belong not only to our family, but to the American family." When I read about the life and times of Sister Ncube, I thought of this eulogy and how relevant it was to the life of Sister Ncube. She was a daughter of South Africa, a child of the struggle and a humble servant of her people. She was known in her community as mmarona, "our mother".
So significant was the impact of Sister Ncube on the lives of those around her that at the height of the apartheid regime she was quickly identified by the security police as a threat to the government of the day. She uplifted communities. She rallied the people and urged them to stand up for their rights and their freedom, becoming a prominent figure in the townships of the West Rand during the late 1980s.
As her political relevance increased, Sister Ncube kept the company of respected individuals such as the Reverend Frank Chikane and travelled with the UDF to the United States to meet George Bush, the then president. However, even as her authority grew, so did her humble nature, which commanded the respect of her peers. True to her roots, Sister Ncube's feet were always firmly planted on the ground.
The Star newspaper recently commended her life and legacy by telling how she attended night vigils, carried coffins and walked with the people. Of course, her presence within the community made her an easy target for those who opposed her cause and she survived many attempts on her life. However, these dangers did not deter her efforts.
When she was once asked why she continued doing what she did amidst those constant threats, she answered: "One finds that if one trusts enough in God, then He lays the foundation and commitment of bringing about justice and freedom to the people." I find her answer inspiring and significant to today's cause of consolidating our democracy. If we trust in the greater good, stay true to our beliefs and principles, and pursue the ultimate goal of freedom and justice for all, this country shall truly be magnificent.
Irrespective of the company she kept, irrespective of earthly distraction and temptation, she always stayed in touch with her roots. Sister Ncube never lost sight of what she had set out to do. Hamba kahle, mmarona! [Go well, our mother.] Thank you. [Applause.]
Hon Chairperson, it is indeed a very sad day. This afternoon we are saying goodbye to one of South Africa's most fearless freedom fighters. Diminutive in stature, Sister Bernard was a towering giant in terms of moral rectitude. She was always dressed in her white habit, with a demure wimple on her head. She strove with all she was worth for a united and just South Africa.
Although she was frequently imprisoned by the apartheid authorities and held in solitary detention for months, or bombed where she slept, or harassed in numerous ways, she took all that was thrown at her in her stride.
Here was an individual determined and committed to mobilising South Africans, men and women, to take up their position in the great struggle. She fervently maintained that women must take their rightful place. She often said that women never went back, they only went forward. Sister Bernard had that look that often left you with a question. She seemed to be saying, "What are you and I going to do about the suffering of the people of our country?"
I recall - this was while I was in the confines of Modderbee Prison in 1986 - the newspaper reports indicating that she had instigated an interdict against the South African Police and the Defence Force not to attack people in Kagiso. At the time that was an extremely courageous thing to do. Few people would have ventured there and it made her a marked person by the security forces. It was therefore hardly surprising that she was arrested shortly thereafter and detained for more than 16 months. She and 14 other Kagiso community leaders were later charged for sedition and other serious offences.
Sister Bernard believed her Catholic faith had to be a living faith. She lived what she believed in. At one point she responded to a journalist and said, "God always creates space; ground on which we are able to advance the cause of justice and freedom of the people."
Her strength matched her belief. To her, justice and freedom meant much more than political freedom. She wanted poverty and its causes to be fully addressed and eliminated.
When I heard that Sister Bernard had passed on, I really regretted not having asked her what order she belonged to, and what vows she took.
Sister Bernard followed her conscience; she showed this through her involvement in party politics. She also availed herself for office, even though this was frowned upon by the church to which we belonged.
Now that she is gone, her work, her performance and her exemplary character must not be allowed to disappear from the face and political life of our nation. Her legacy must be made to live on.
It is therefore with sadness that we register our regret that someone with such a reservoir of moral integrity is gone at the very time when our country most desperately needs to draw from those reserves and the examples she set.
To everyone ever associated with Sister Bernard, be it as family members, comrades in formations, associates, or friends and neighbours in communities, Cope offers its sincerest condolences. The passing of so noble a spirit cannot but touch us all, and we indeed feel the sadness of being parted from her. Rest in peace, Sister Bernard! May your life and work inspire us deeply as we seek our future. [Applause.]
Hon Speaker, I rise on the sad occasion of the passing away of Sister Bernard Ncube. She was a woman not only of vision and leadership, but also of firm belief and unwavering dedication to her work. She was a highly regarded heroine and veteran of our struggle for freedom and democracy. She gave her life to the church in 1955, when she entered the Companions of Angela religious community. In joining the convent she demonstrated that she was destined to serve humanity.
She was an active member of the ruling party and the church, where she played a great role. She served selflessly in both of these groups with unbridled passion, focus, determination and an uncompromising loyalty to both her colleagues and the party. In 1994 she was elected a Member of Parliament and she chaired the Committee on Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. She has been referred to as being an unorthodox nun who was not afraid of taking counter-populist positions. She followed her conscience and spoke from her heart. She was a woman of integrity and honour. She will be sorely missed.
Friends, we gather here today not only to mourn, but also to celebrate the life, achievements and dedication of Sister Bernard Ncube. She was loved by the people she helped and by the people who worked alongside her. She remains an exemplary role-model in whose footsteps we should all aspire to follow. Sister Ncube was a mother to many who were involved in the struggle for liberation in South Africa.
In conclusion, she will be missed terribly. We are never to forget her. The entire IFP salutes and thanks her for the great work she has done for her people, church and country. May her soul rest in peace.
Ngithanda ukubhekisa kumantombazane onke ale Ndlu ukuthi intombazane isebenzile. Siyayizwa imisebenzi yayo. Kuyinselela kithi ukuthi siyilandele, siyilingise, sibambane, singakhulumi izindaba zombangazwe njengamantombazane. (Translation of isiZulu paragraph follows.)
[I would like to direct this to all the women of this House by saying that this woman worked hard. We have been told about the work she did. It is a challenge to follow in her footsteps - by doing what she did, being united, and not to talk about politics as women.]
We are women; our sufferings are the same. We need to join hands and stop saying, "You are yellow, you are green, and I am blue."
Bengithi angikusho nje lokhu ngingakasuki la enkundleni. Ngiyabonga. [Ihlombe.] [I just wanted to say this before I leave this podium. Thank you. [Applause.]]
Mr Speaker, hon members, the UDM extends its sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the late Sister Bernard Ncube. Sister Ncube is yet another of the class of 1994, that first crop of democratically elected Members of Parliament, to depart from us. It is also worth noting that she too, like many other significant political players, comes from community development organisations and women empowerment organisations, such as the Federation of Transvaal Women.
The late Sister Ncube was an active participant in politics for many decades and participated in events that shook our country in the latter half of the 20th century. She therefore leaves a legacy of considerable proportions. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family. May her soul rest in peace. Ke a leboga. [Thank you.] [Applause.]
Hon Speaker, in 1994 a group of women whom I would like to call "senior stateswomen" came to Parliament. Sister Bernard Ncube was one of those and, if I may mention two other ladies in the same vein, I remember our colleague, hon Bertha Gxowa, and the hon Faith Gaza. Both of them have also passed on. Sister Bernard was one of those "senior stateswomen" who came to Parliament. I remember her very well. I had the privilege to serve with her in this House from 1994.
The picture that was shown to us just now - that is exactly how we all remember her. Always dressed ...
... met die wit doek van susterskap op haar kop. Dit is presies soos sy gelyk het. Dit is ook hoe sy altyd opgetree het. Sy het aan ons 'n voorbeeld gestel dat 'n mens nie bombasties of lawaaierig hoef te wees om jou standpunt baie sterk te stel nie. Daarom was sy gerespekteer in hierdie Huis; haar standpunt was gerespekteer en almal het van haar insette geweet en kennis geneem.
Ek wil graag namens die VF Plus ons opregte medelye betuig met haar familie, en haar naasbestaandes wat vir haar lief was en haar nou verloor het, asook met die ANC, wat 'n kollega verloor het. Ons respekteer die bydrae wat sy gemaak het. Ons dra ons opregte simpatie oor en ons assosieer ons graag met die mosie wat voor die Huis dien. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraphs follows.)
[... with the white wimple of sisterhood wrapped around her head. That is exactly what she looked like. That is also how she always conducted herself. She set us the example that one does not have to be bombastic or noisy to get one's point of view across very strongly. Therefore she was respected in this House; her point of view was respected and everyone knew about her inputs and took note of them.
On behalf of the FF Plus, I would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to her family, and her relatives who loved her and now lost her, and also to the ANC, who has lost a colleague. We value the contribution that she had made. We convey our heartfelt sympathy, and we would like to associate ourselves with the motion that has been tabled in this House.]
Hon Speaker, the ACDP learned with sadness of the death of Sister Bernard Ncube on Friday. She had been serving as the mayor of the West Rand region of Johannesburg.
Sister Bernard was born in Johannesburg in 1933. She attended college in Lesotho, where she received a Diploma in Theology, entered the Companions Catholic Order and was a teacher until 1960.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Sister Bernard helped to form local women's organisations and was elected president of the Federation of Transvaal Women in 1984.
She was detained six times under emergency regulations, including a time when she spent three months in solitary confinement. When her cause received international attention, she was freed, but rearrested on charges of sedition and subversion, which were later withdrawn by the state when no substantial evidence could be found.
In 1994, when Sister Bernard took office as a Member of Parliament and chaired the Portfolio Committee on Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, I was also a Member of Parliament. I did not sit on any portfolio committee with her, but I did notice that in my first five years in Parliament, whenever I was on the speakers' list, Sister Bernard would always be either directly before me or directly after me on that list.
She was known and respected for her part in the struggle for the rights of women and children. She has been referred to as an unorthodox nun, particularly because she argued for abortion during her participation in the debate on the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill.
The ACDP extends its condolences to her Mother Superior, sister nuns, ANC colleagues and all who knew and loved her.
Hon Speaker and hon members, it is a sad moment when a human being leaves us in death. It makes us even sadder when such a person was a Christian as devout as Sister Bernard was.
I came to know the late Sister Bernard closely in the years 1999 to 2004, when she was a member in this House. She chaired the then Portfolio Committee on Arts, Culture, Science and Technology for the 1994 to 1999 session. She later moved on to chair another committee, as Dr Wally Serote had to chair the one on arts and culture. I remember her calling me aside after a meeting in which I had raised the need to introduce the Mmabana Arts, Culture and Sport Foundation concept countrywide. She wanted to know what that was about. On learning that it was an institution that trained the youth and adults alike in a variety of art forms, she sounded interested and felt that it could be mooted.
Sister Bernard came across as a resolute, determined member whose smile, let alone laughter, was very scarce. Taking her role in the struggle for democracy into account, we admit that she lived up to the mission of the church, which is, among other things, to liberate those who are incarcerated.
We bid this woman of faith farewell in the full knowledge that she has showed her mettle. May she find peace and rest in the celestial empire to which she has departed.
Hon Speaker and hon Deputy President, once again death has robbed us of a gallant daughter of the soil. Sister Bernard Ncube's untimely death is a huge loss to the entire nation, not only to the ANC.
She distinguished herself as a fearless nun, who never compromised her beliefs on the altar of orthodoxy. She injected a heavy dose of relevance into the church by addressing political matters and insisting that justice be done on earth. Sister Ncube was a lantern of hope in the long night of colonial subjugation and white domination. She was a loud, clear and eloquent voice of the voiceless; a companion of the poor, the marginalised and the downtrodden masses of our country.
Re le ba mokgatlo wa PAC re re: Sepela gabotse mogale wa bagale. T?hukudu e kgolo ya ga Ncube e lapi?it?we ke marumo a bot?ofadi le bolwet?i. Afrika e tla ?ala e go gopola ka bokgabane le botho bja gago nalet?ana ya ntlo e kgolo, ntlokgolo ya majakane, ntlokgokolo ya boMopapa. Ge nkabe lehu le na le ditsebe, re be re tla le sebela ra re: Go kaone ge o ka phamola yo mongwe goba le lengwe la mafeela ao a ebelago le naga ye a sa tsebe gore a nyaka eng.
Sepela gabotse mmago set?haba, mofepi wa dit?huana. Ga di lebogwe. (Translation of Sepedi paragraphs follows.)
[As the PAC, we salute you, our mighty warrior! In her old age, the great warrior Ncube suffered and died from a very long illness. Africa will remember her sense of humour and kindness. If it were possible, we would whisper into death's ears and say: It would be better if you had taken someone else wandering about instead of Ncube.
May your soul rest in peace, mother of the nation, caregiver of the orphans. I thank you.]
Mr Speaker, on behalf of the MF, I convey our deepest condolences to the family, friends and relatives of the late Sister Bernard Ncube on her sad demise. Our heartfelt condolences also go to the ANC on the loss of an astounding leader and a remarkable individual.
As you know, death is one of those harsh and hard realities that one cannot but accept. We pray that you do not lose your strength of mind as you mourn her death. You will always be reminded of what a great and charismatic personality she was. May you gain comfort from knowing that she is lying in the arms of the Lord. Sister Bernard was always passionate about the church and her love for God was tremendous and without measure.
The passing of this veteran women's rights activist is a great loss not only to the people of Gauteng, but of South Africa. With her warm and caring heart, her service to the most vulnerable and in the fight for liberation, she strived to ensure that the needy did not go to sleep on an empty belly. Indeed, she was a great inspiration to all women and a true citizen of humanity.
Those who lived in her shadow consider it a singular honour and privilege. She was passionate about women's issues and ensured that injustices were addressed so that they did not cause progress to stagnate or deter the advancement of women. Sister Bernard leaves behind a legacy in the community that is infused with honesty, integrity, dignity and, above all, tenacity.
Despite Sister Bernard's religious beliefs, she was pragmatic when it came to public policy and opinion. With her great spirit of humility, she did not deviate from the cause that service to humanity is service to God. Those who worked with her were humbled by her commitment and dedication to deliver a better life for all who lived with hardship. She was known to be a true servant of the people and she stood the test of time.
May her soul rest in peace through the grace of God Almighty.
Mr Speaker, hon members, family members of the late Sister Bernard Ncube, ladies and gentlemen, ... sanibonani. [... I greet you.]
Thank you for the opportunity to pay homage to a remarkable person, someone who truly lived a life of selfless struggle - Sister Bernard Ncube. Sister Bernard led by example when she entered the community of the Order of Companions of St Angela as a very young woman. This was not done because of any selfish motive but, unlike many who proclaimed to be Christians and render only an outward service to God, Sister Bernard knew it was impossible to please God without faith. She understood that Jesus came so that we may have life abundant. This is the reason she took the yoke of Jesus upon herself and became a co-worker of Jesus to free the people from the shackles of apartheid, shame and poverty. It is obvious that Sister Bernard's deep and abiding faith in the power of her Creator was the reason for her existence. Everything she did was therefore just a logical step in her understanding of what the essence of being human was all about.
It was this faith that gave Sister Bernard the courage to face her tormentors when they unleashed their forces of evil against her and the communities she served. Rooted in the struggle was Sister Bernard. It was this faith that sustained her and kept her true to the Scripture teachings after countless bouts of detention. It was this faith that made Sister Bernard believe that South Africa would be free one day.
The Scriptures implore us to love our neighbours as ourselves, and it was this belief that led Sister Bernard to be her sister's and her brother's keeper. Not only did she know the Scriptures, but she practised the Word. Like the biblical heroines, Sister Bernard stayed true to her faith. She was a Deborah of this country, leading and advising her people until we could all sing the song of victory; the song of freedom.
Like Esther, Sister Bernard was a heroine in a time of oppression; her faith in her Creator never wavering. Sister Bernard knew inherently that if God were with us, who could be against us? She also knew that with God everything was possible. Sister Bernard, in the true tradition of the great women disciples of Jesus, like sisters Mary and Martha, bore witness to extremely painful times. However, like Mary Magdalene, Sister Bernard knew that weeping may last for the night, but that joy comes in the morning, when she, along with millions, witnessed the resurrection of our country in 1994.
Sister Bernard's life was not lived in isolation from the wider faith communities that she was a part of. She followed in the footsteps of other faith leaders who lived their beliefs in the praxis of a contextual theology - ladies and gentlemen like Chief Albert Luthuli, Dr Beyers Naude, Dr Charlotte Maxeke and many others. In their understanding of the Scriptures and theological witness, they knew how to discern the meaning of and contribute to the course of social change.
These great women and men took their inspiration not from classic texts on behaviour, but from the harsh realities that they and the majority of South Africans faced at that time, always keeping in mind what the future possibilities of a free South Africa might be.
Wayeyibona-ke inkululeko ingakafiki uSista Bernard Ncube. [Sister Bernard Ncube visualised the freedom before it came to pass.]
When called upon to serve in the first democratic Parliament, this woman of God once again put her faith in the organisation that she knew assisted our people through the worst excesses of the apartheid regime, a system that was very cruel to humanity, dehumanising people and making them subhuman because of their colour. Like our other great icon, Madiba, Sister Barnard lived for that which she was prepared to die. She understood that she was created in the image of God and therefore she lived to fulfil the purpose of her Creator. She needed to be respected as an equal human being. Knowing that what she was doing could lead to her death, she understood that living a life of purpose and contributing to the common good was a higher calling - and this is what ignites the desire to do more.
She embodied the principles of the party she represented - the principles of nonracialism, nonsexism and democracy. She did not shy away from inconvenient truths; she was guided by faith, nothing more and nothing less. Her religion did not prevent her from fighting for the emancipation of women and for equality. She also fought for economic freedom.
When I met Sister Bernard in this august House in 1994, both of us newly elected Members of Parliament, I was drawn to this woman of faith, small in stature but large in belief - belief in justice for all. Sister Bernard led an interparty prayer group, but never imposed her doctrine on others. She was humble and faithful to the cause she dedicated her life to. We used to pray together in room 206 every Wednesday morning, and she was dedicated to that. Sister Bernard prayed, because she knew that prayer was the sibling of perseverance; that patience was a spiritual virtue and that one needed to stay focused while awaiting the fruits of one's labour. She knew that to overcome supernatural obstacles you needed supernatural intervention, which you could obtain through the intercession of the Creator.
Sister Bernard, you fought a good fight.
Ukulwile ukulwa okuhle. Uliqedile ibanga lakho, usulindele umqhele wakho kanye nabaningi. [You fought a good fight. You finished your course; you are now awaiting your crown together with the others.]
We all feel privileged for having had Sister Bernard Ncube as one of those who contributed to building a democratic, nonracist and nonsexist South Africa. Sister Bernard fought a good fight. When people like this die ... sithi: balele, baphumule abafanga. [... we say: they are sleeping, resting; they are not dead.]
We thank her family and her religious community for having been part of shaping the life of this remarkable woman of faith.
Kwangathi sonke singathi: "Mphefumulo wami nyathela ngamandla". Sisho njengo-Deborah wakudala owathi uma enqobile esebuya empini wathi "mphefumulo wami nyathela ngamandla". (Translation of isiZulu paragraph follows.)
[My wish is we that all say: "March on, my soul! Be strong". Saying it like Deborah of the olden days who, on her return after having won the battle, said these words, "March on, my soul! Be strong".
She displayed all that was good and respectful. She has now taken her rightful place at the side of the Almighty. May we never forget her.
Robala ka kgotso mme wa rona. [Rest in peace, our mother.] Lala ngoxolo qhawe lamaqhawe. Hamba kahle. [Rest in peace, great heroine. Farewell.] Thank you very much, hon members. [Applause.]
Agreed to, members standing.