Programme Director, Mr Panyaza Lesufi, MEC for Education;
The Masebe Family;
Mr David Makhura, Premier of Gauteng;
Honourable Ministers, Deputy Ministers; MECs; Councillors and other Leaders here present;
Leadership of the Alliance;
Spiritual Leaders and Rev. Frank Chikane;
Traditional Leaders; Chief Mashao;
It was with great sadness and shock that my wife, Gugu, and I, learnt about the sudden passing of Cde Thabo Masebe with whom we both have had the privilege of working with so closely over the years, in various capacities.
To his family: we would like to express immense gratitude for sharing Cde Thabo with us in his extended family, the African National Congress (ANC). Even though we may not fully grasp the gravity of your deep sorrow and loss, we hope that you find solace and comfort in the knowledge that we are here to condole with you. Your loss is our loss.
All the tributes since his passing have been a positive reflection, underpinned by profound affection for the memory of Cde Thabo.
I have been asked to add our voice in paying tribute to this distinguished cadre of our organisation.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes Jnr said:
“When we were young our hearts were filled with fire – and as life is action and passion, a man must share in the actions and passions of his time at the peril of being judged not to have lived at all.”
Like many of his comrades and like all of us, Cde Thabo is at once a product and creator of history. Cde Thabo, though self-effacing, his heart was filled with fire and he shared in the actions and passions of his time. He distinguished himself in the role that he played, first as a student and youth activist in the turbulent 1980s and early 1990s.
Cde Thabo and his generation of youth activists were privileged to have waged relentless struggles against Apartheid.
From the history of the ANC, we draw lessons from the 1930s, when the ANC was moribund, and went through a process of renewal from 1937 which led to the establishment of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and ANC Women’s League in the 1940s. So the first generation of ANCYL leaders were critical of the Mother Body, however, resolved to join the leadership and to radicalise the Organisation. And so, at the 35th National Elective Conference in 1949, they were elected into the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC —- Oliver Tambo, who was at the time 32 years old; Walter Sisulu, who was as old as the ANC itself at the age of 37 and was elected as Secretary General; and Dan Tloome, who was only 30, was also elected into the NEC of the ANC. At that time Nelson Mandela was President of the ANC in the Transvaal (1950).
This generation of youth leaders, once they were elected into the National Executive Committee of the ANC, they benefitted from the stalwarts who served together with them such as: JB Marks, Moses Kotane, and Edwin Thabo Mofutsanyana, to name but a few. Thereafter, they remained in harness and at the helm of the struggle until the Organisation was unbanned in 1990.
Similarly, the generation of Cde Thabo Masebe, the generation of the Young Lions, were privileged to have been in leadership positions of the youth structures when the 1944 Youth Leaguers were now the stalwarts of the Organisation. And so, at the time of the revival of the ANC Youth League, Oliver Tambo addressed the Conference of this generation. These stalwarts of the 1940s were proud of the Young Lions and saw in the Young Lions a continuation of their own fire and passions. And therefore, a sense of mutual respect developed.
This alone may be said: the generation of Cde Thabo Masebe learnt from the best and were mentored by the best; and they learnt at the knees of 1944 Youth Leaguers.
This is the historical context that shaped Cde Thabo Masebe.
Cde Thabo Masebe possessed many qualities that cannot be quickly catalogued. But it was hard not to notice that he was warm-hearted and driven, fuelled by his innate sense of empathy, love and dedication for his people. Along with his concern for his fellow comrades and his belief in justice, these attributes defined much of his conduct and his fervour for activism, drawing him to the ranks of the liberation movement and affirming his lifelong commitment to the fight against oppression and the ongoing quest to deliver freedom in all realms, to our country.
Cde Thabo, incorruptible in his thoughts and deeds, believed with every fibre of his being that the ANC represented the people’s greatest hope.
Unassuming in his demeanour and consideration for others, Cde Thabo was appreciated by all for his intellect, hard work and uprightness —- he was a straight-shooter. He radiated warmth and confidence. These qualities, together with his politeness and the patience to listen to other people, perhaps, contributed the most in making him one of the most accomplished political communicators in the democratic era. He worked for both the party and the state in that capacity at the highest level. Cde Thabo was highly effective in the various roles he occupied, earning him wide praise for his professionalism.
Cde Thabo leaves us at a time when his political home, the ANC, and our country are facing unprecedented difficulties as well as the stubborn issues of: poverty; unemployment; land hunger; food insecurity; energy insecurity; crime and corruption, to name a few.
We as his extended family, acknowledge that overcoming these difficulties and achieving the renewal of the organisation requires: unity of purpose; honesty; integrity; humility and collective responsibility —- because conceit and complacency are the arch-enemies of unity.
Our history teaches us that renewal is inseparable from the role of the youth in the Organisation.
As we remember Cde Thabo and all those Young Lions that have left us, we can feel their rumble and hear their echo. Through these reverberations we celebrate our young people today and their dynamic power to innovate and inspire, and we invite them to step back in time with us as we revisit a past scarred by terrible events but also a past laden with lessons.
There are no limits to what young people can achieve and do as we learn from history today. We encourage the youth to connect with that which came before and we embolden them to roar across the landscape of this great continent: to lead us from the front.
The best way to train young people, is to give them responsibility. Failure to do that is nothing but an excuse.
That is the least we can do to honour the memory of Cde Thabo Masebe.
Cde Thabo was very special because he understood:
Muhulwane u kanda Mupfa a Tshi u vhona.
Once again, we pour out our sympathies and compassion for the Family, Friends and Colleagues of Cde Thabo Masebe.
May his memory live in the hearts of future generations.
Long live the undying spirit of Cde Thabo Masebe, long live!
I thank you.