Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
The death of someone young is a unique tragedy. Although we know that death does not respect age any more than it does celebrity or power, by default our minds tell us that a long life has been fully lived, while a short life has been interrupted.
As a Christian, I am hesitant to question the length of a man's days, for surely God knows the time allotted to us. That does not mean I understand why I am given the bonanza of years beyond three score and ten, while four of my children died in their prime. It simply means I have made peace with not understanding.
My heart went out to Ms Trevana Moodley, the daughter of Minister Roy Padayachie, as she delivered a moving tribute to her father yesterday. She bravely stood before the President, his Cabinet, our nation's leaders, and the camera, and said a remarkable thing. She said, "Daddy, you have done all we expected of you."
In the week since Minister Padayachie's death in Addis Ababa, tributes and messages of condolence have echoed my own thoughts; that there is so much Minister Padayachie could still have done for our country. He was only 62.
In fact, on the first of May as South Africa celebrated Workers' Day, Minister Roy Padayachie celebrated his 62nd birthday. The coinciding of these dates is fitting. For of all the commendations we could bestow on him, the simplest is this; he was a worker.
He worked hard for political liberation. He worked hard to support his family. He worked hard to mobilise communities. He worked hard to build unity across barriers. He worked hard to negotiate democracy. He worked hard to improve governance.
Roy Padayachie was focussed, yet not distant or inaccessible. When he was Minister of Communications, he made it a point to invite me to every function. I will always remember the times we spent together, for it was always a pleasure to be in his company. Although we came from different political camps, we had much in common. Our shared patriotism made even our age difference irrelevant.
The year that Roy Padayachie was born, I was a member of the ANC Youth League at the University of Fort Hare. I was rusticated that very year for organising a student boycott against the visit of the Governor General, Dr G. Brand van Zyl. I was twenty two at the time. Twenty two years later, Roy Padayachie joined the ANC and organised student boycotts in protest against Vorster's visit to his university campus.
From that moment, we began to share a struggle for freedom, giving our own contribution according to our own calling, but towards the same end. I am proud to have served South Africa side by side with Minister Padayachie.
He was equally a part of South Africa's story before the watershed of 1994, and afterwards, as we worked to consolidate our freedom. Indeed, he was a great patriot who lived in an extraordinary time. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude for all he gave and all he did throughout his life to serve liberation, reconciliation and democracy.
My condolences are with Mrs Sally Mudaly Padayachie and the Padayachie family. The family's loss is deep and personal. We cannot begin to understand their pain.
The loss to the ANC, however, is easier to put into words. Minister Padayachie was an asset to his Party. He was a dedicated, loyal and competent servant of the people. He aligned with the ANC's ideals and represented the ANC's vision. But there was more to Minister Padayachie than this, which makes his death a loss to many of us outside the ANC.
He was an exceptional Minister whose appointment was welcomed and whose work consistently proved the wisdom of appointing him. His death is a loss to the Department of Public Service and Administration, and a loss to governance.
He had a good business mind and his advice was equally sought out by entrepreneurs and international organisations. His death is a loss to the pool of leadership this generation must draw on.
He was respectful, inclusive and warm. His death is a loss to those of us who still pursue reconciliation. Minister Padayachie always showed great respect for other political organisations, which was a manifestation of his genuine commitment to unity across all divides. This is what drove him during the liberation struggle, and it continued to inspire him as he served in public office.
Although his authority was felt in every province as he served in South Africa's Cabinet, it was in KwaZulu Natal that we saw him, rolling up his sleeves, going into homes and making a difference through his presence. The people of KwaZulu Natal feel this loss deeply. We have lost one of our own.
I am privileged to have known Minister Padayachie. I held him in high esteem. In tribute to a man who "died doing what he loved", let us continue the work he so passionately pursued.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP