We gather here today to bid farewell to one of the Eastern Cape’s finest sons. ComradeStof, a beloved comrade and friend, embodied more than most the values and qualities that we seek in ourselves.
The African National Congress (ANC) shaped his life the organization that he loved so deeply and to which he remained loyal.
He was a revolutionary reverend and a revolutionary politician. He was unwavering in his faith and firm in his political convictions. He lived his life in pursuit of the Biblical injunction that the oppressed shall be set free and the hungry shall be fed.
As we gather here on this sad day, we can say with conviction that Makhenkesi Stofile was an architect of hope and a combatant for social justice. We celebrate a life lived in service and devotion and the outstanding contribution that he has made to our country and to its people.
Even as we pay tribute to his outstanding contribution, we yearn at this moment in the history of our nation for people of the caliber and character of Makhenkesi Stofile. He was a person of great courage. He risked his life for his people and his movement. He is one of the many leaders and members of our movement who endured persecution and imprisonment.
Leaders who are prepared to sacrifice in the way that he did are rare.
Now, at this moment, we need people of courage like Cde Stof. We need people who understand, as he did, that politics must be about putting the country first, people who will stand up for what is right, people who will stand up and uphold the values of our movement. We need people who will not only ask difficult questions of ourselves, of our movement, of our leaders, but people who are prepared to do the demanding and exacting work required to truly transform our society.
Makhenkesi Stofile was a person of outstanding integrity who lived his life based on the values of our movement. He had an essential honesty rooted in his profound respect for the rights, dignity and humanity of others.
He was humble, unassuming, not given to affectation.
Now, perhaps more than ever, we need people of integrity like Cde Stof. We need people who reject the notion that politics is about the promotion of one’s narrow self-interest, people who will not succumb to the temptations of public office; who will not take for themselves what rightly belongs to the masses. In a society that prizes status and wealth, we need people who, like Cde Stof, regard the lowliest among us as the most significant, the most valued.
He believed that politics should fundamentally be about morality. Rev Makhenkesi Stofile was a disciplined cadre of our movement. He knew that leaders must earn the trust of the people by articulating a coherent moral vision that is compelling, that describes and exemplifies a national democratic society and that reflects the values enshrined in our Constitution.
He paid great attention to the detail of running an organization, believing that the ANC was only as strong as its branches.
If we are to be the honest leaders that Cde Stof urged us to be, we cannot lay him to rest without acknowledging the anguish that he felt at the state of our movement and our national democratic revolution.
In the weeks before his passing, he expressed a concern that the ANC may lose Nelson Mandela Bay and other key centers. As the results of the local government elections came in, his fears were confirmed.
We must recognize, as he did, that unless we act with urgency and determination to correct our flaws, to address our weaknesses, we place many of the gains of our democratic revolution at risk.
It is at moments like this – as we confront new and difficult challenges – that we need people like Cde Stof, people who will rise above the petty jealousies that infect our public life, people who will work tirelessly for the unity of the oppressed and for the unity of the movement that leads them.
He worked tirelessly to bring together South Africans of all races into a common effort to build a new, united nation. He firmly believed in gender equality and in the advancement of women in all spheres of national life.
His sense of humour was legendary. Who can forget his mischievous chuckle, his belly-deep laugh, and his love of life?
On behalf of government and the people of South Africa, I convey to the Stofile family and friends our deepest condolences on this profound loss.
May you find comfort and strength, as we seek to do, in the fact that he lived his life to the fullest and served his people with courage and distinction.
Reverend Stofile has now joined the illustrious legion of departed stalwarts from this province who served their country with commitment, passion and selflessness.
Hamba Kahle Mkhonto.
Your struggle, our struggle, the people’s struggle, continues.
May your soul rest in eternal peace.
CDE CYRIL RAMAPHOSA IS ANC DEPUTY PRESIDENT