It is a privilege and a joy for me to join hundreds of you today as we celebrate the life and times of Manana Happy Joyce Mashamba – a venerated stalwart, a sister, a daughter, a wife and above all a caring and dear mother to many of us.
Let me beforehand express my heartfelt condolences to her beloved husband, our very own stalwart and veteran of the ANC and SACP, Tatane Tintswalo Godwin George Mashamba. Allow me as well to pass a word of bereavement to the children Nyiko, Wisani, Tiyani, Bongani and to all the seven grandchildren – in fact to the whole Mashamba family.
It’s difficult for us to speak to you today as we are covered by a dark cloud after the loss of our mother, comrade Joyce Mashamba. This is a moment of great pain for us as the ANC, SACP, COSATU and SANCO. Our hearts have not stopped bleeding ever-since we learnt about her passing, only a day before we could hold our 09th Provincial Conference. We knew she was not well, but this really caught us by surprise.
Manana Joyce or Sis Joyce as she we affectionately known, was a deeply kind and loving person, not only to her four children but to all of us who grew up under her watch. She would hardly forget any person she has met, even recalling them by their first names. It was always difficult not to see her in the company of her loving partner and husband, Comrade Bra George Mashamba. For many of us, this was indeed the most beautiful political couple we can ever imagine in the whole province if not the entire country. Sis Joyce and Bra George would share everything from meals to books, even attending church, political meetings and rallies together.
Mama Joyce possessed in her veins revolutionary blood of the kind that would not allow her to desist anything that would stop her from fighting the system. Her education, and even her Christian upbringing never stood in her way from challenging the injustices of apartheid.
We have already heard about how she continued to challenge the system even when she was confined in detention; she did so even at the University of the North where she worked, but as well when her husband was incarcerated in Robben Island. All these were never excuses for her not to participate or contribute in our revolution.
Her conduct can at best be described as exemplary. She never criticize anyone in public nor denounce her movement even at a time when all the pain and suffering she endured prevented her from doing practical organisational work during her last days.
This was who she was irrespective of the many positions she occupied in government. She is one of the longest serving MEC’s in our country whose leadership straddled across all administrations. We all know that she has been a CEO of Northern Training Trust, a Deputy Speaker in the Legislature and an MEC of various portfolios ranging from Education; Sport, Arts and Culture; Safety, Security and Liaison; Social Development and quite recently the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
On top of this, she served in different times in the highest echelons of our movement. She has been a member of the PEC of the ANC and SACP in Limpopo, a member of the ANCWL NEC, a member of the ANC NEC and also a member of the Central Committee of the SACP.
But serving in all these positions never made her arrogant. She was neither a position monger nor a factionalist. To her deployment was not a right but a mere privilege to serve our people. She did so, humbly and loyally till her last days. I know she would have been the first to call to order those who last week tried and failed to take their organisation to court, only because they could not get their way and only their way.
I know I speak for all of you when I say that, the gap that has been left by the departure of this mighty spirit will soon enough make itself felt. There were indeed very few people in the ANC who behaved and lived like her. Educated, humble, peaceful, dignified, always willing to serve, this was comrade Joyce we knew.
With each passing day, we shall miss her hugs and smiles, her gentle manners and her rare ability to speak and address in all languages in the province. Even as we speak, we are beginning to feel her absence and remembering her contribution every minute. The past few days have indeed been quite difficult for us to accept that she is no more.
When the passing of our leader was announced to us last week, a sense of gloom and loss surrounded our province. We paused and asked ourselves questions we could not answer. The question bedevilling in our minds is who is next? This is because we cannot for a minute programme director pretend that a greater proportion of our stalwarts and veterans are not leaving us weaker as the ANC.
First it was Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela Mandela in April. She was later followed by Zola Skweyiya. Comrade George Nene and Sam Nzima died also during the same period. As if this was not enough Cde Billy Modise also passed away last week almost the same time as Mma Mashamba.
With their passing we cannot pretend that a greater part of our being is not leaving with them. With their passing we cannot pretend that our institutional memory still remains intact.
With their departure, we cannot pretend that the youth of our country are not being emptied of their revolutionary morality that has always guided this generation. With each passing death of a stalwart – footprints of liberation fades away and with it pages of history, thereby leaving us the more poorer and destitute. The weaker amongst us slowly begins to lose the meaning of what it means to really sacrifice for a just cause.
In the process, some amongst us even begin to lose confidence in themselves; they lose confidence in the relevance of the struggle and even in the justness of their cause. The passing of this generation also leaves us vulnerable to peddlers of untruths, and the champions of ignorance. Because of the lies that are daily perpetuated in the media that the ANC is corrupt, our children are being told to lose hope in their parents. They are daily asked to justify why the ANC exists – and – why the Alliance still exists in this current conjecture? We are asked to explain ourselves daily why do we still need to prosecute the National Democratic Revolution after 1994?
With their passing, our youth gets deprived of the true knowledge of the history of this country, which reduced all of us (Africans) into pariahs in the land of our birth – that is until the ANC took up arms to defeat the regime.
Because of the diminishing trust in the ability and knowledge of our veterans, some of our youth are now tending to lose focus in the significance of major events which happened in our history such as the adoption of the African Claims document in 1943, the pass resistance campaigns, the potato boycotts, the bus strikes in Alexandra, the adoption of the Freedom charter in 1955, the 1956 women’s march, the 1973 Durban strikes, the 1976 student uprisings in Soweto, the formation of the UDF in 1983 and of COSATU in 1985, the 1994 breakthrough itself – but most importantly what it means to be a member and leader of the ANC in the New Dawn.
With the passing of this generation, we seem to be losing cadres who should be reminding us that tenders, personal advancement and material gains are not the primary reasons why we should be members and activists of the ANC.
It is the responsibility of the surviving stalwarts and veterans in our movement to ensure that the youth are taught correct politics. Without political education, the ANC will easily become irrelevant to this society. Together with Bra George, many will know that Mama Joyce was an accomplished political commissar and an educator in her own right. We have a responsibility to pick up the spear in her honour.
Bringing change to her people is what sustained Comrade Joyce to the end. This is the conviction that carried her through till the last breath of her life. We thank God for the life of Comrade Joyce. For those who fear the Lord, they will know that Mama Mashamba is not dead but has merely fallen asleep.
We are today united not only by sorrow of losing one of our own but by the spirit of hope that tomorrow the sun will still shine upon us. Let us cherish the hope that this community will rise again despite what has happened.
From the scores of people who are gathered here, we can tell that Mama was greatly loved by all. Throughout her life, we knew she was respected and envied by young and old for the very simple reason that she led a quite revolutionary life which was simple yet rich and dignified.
Even when her life hanged by the thread, she remained cheerful and never gave up hope nor surrender her courage to the enemies of our revolution.
It is this gallantry of a life we celebrate here today. This was a life of courage, perseverance, leadership and humility. These are characteristics we saw with own eyes in comrade Joyce.
As I conclude programme director, we want to thank alliance partners, government and the community for the outpourings of messages of condolences we have received thus far.
On Saturday, the day on which we shall finally be laying to rest the remains of comrade Joyce, let us remember that there would be hearings throughout the province to hear oral submissions on the question of land expropriation without compensation. Submissions obtained from this hearings will help us on the path to be taken when we finally decide to re-allocate land to our people. I plead with all of you to take these hearings seriously so that you can go and make your inputs.
Finally, let our hearts not be troubled. Death is not the extinguishing of a light, but the putting out of the lamp because the dawn has come. Let us always remember that, every living organism that dies, leaves a new seed to be born. I want us to leave here content that Comrade Joyce Mashamba has fulfilled her mission on earth – no matter the reason or cause of her death.
Long live the undying spirit Imbokodo – Long Live.
Etlela hi kurula