Former colleagues and friends of the late Dr Zola Skweyiya described him as someone who was disciplined and who loved serving the poor and working towards ensuring that all have a better life.
Speaker after speaker reminisced fondly about the late Skweyiya at a Special Official Memorial Service on Wednesday 18th April at the Tshwane Events Centre.
Skweyiya, who passed away on 11 April, was a former Minister of Social Development and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Mbulelo Musi who was Dr Skweyiya’s spokesperson at the Department of Social Development in 1999 said working with him was a turning point in his life.
“I was humbled when he asked me to come and help with communication at the Department of Social Development. To me that was a turning point, I learnt a lot from him, he taught me how to serve people and that I should do it with pride.
“Dr Skweyiya was pro-poor. He would say no child in this country should go to bed without a meal,” Musi said.
He also pointed out that during Dr Skweyiya’s time as Minister at the Department of Social Development he was crucial in the process of starting a poverty alleviation programme for the poor.
He established the South African Social Security Agency to administer and manage a singular national social assistance programme to cater for the poor and the vulnerable.
“I have learnt a lot from him. He was like a father to me. I have travelled the world with him and he taught me a lot of things for which I will be forever grateful,” Musi said.
However Musi had first met Dr Skweyiya in 1980 in Zambia where they shared the same house during the struggle.
“I began to know him as someone who was always fearless and honest,” he said.
Snuki Zikalala, head of the ANC Veterans League and former Department of Labour spokesperson, added that he is saddened by the passing of Skweyiya.
Zikalala said he knew the late Dr Skweyiya as a hard worker.
“I am comforted that we are here to celebrate his life and his departure. Skweyiya was a cadre you could always count on,” Zikalala said.
Mavuso Msimang, a representative of the Veterans League, told mourners that the late Skweyiya was committed to the cause of the struggle.
“He left the country to train as a guerrilla. Zola received specialised training in Radio Communication,” said Msimang.
Professor Sibusiso Nkomo told mourners that Skweyiya was a mentor to young people and wanted them to join the Public Service.
“In my view, Dr Skweyiya was not a politician, but a statesman. Under his leadership at the Department of Public Service and Administration, the language in the public service changed to English. He wanted people to understand the Public Service,” Professor Nkomo said.
On his return to South Africa from exile, Skweyiya participated in the establishment of the South African Defence Fund.
In 1994, the late President Nelson Mandela appointed Skweyiya as the first post-apartheid Minister of the Department of Public Service and Administration.
In 1999, Skweyiya was appointed Social Development Minister, a position he held until 2009.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a Special Official Funeral Category 1 for Skweyiya and ordered that the National Flag be flown at half-mast at all flag stations countrywide and at South African Diplomatic Missions until the day of the funeral on 21 April.
President Ramaphosa will deliver the eulogy at the Special Official Funeral Service at the funeral which is being held at the CRC Church in Pretoria East.