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.]