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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Tribute to Pinki Mzwamadoda Ntsangani delivered by Zwelinzima Vavi

2 February 2002

Comrade and Friends;

We are gathered here to bid farewell to our dearly departed comrade, friend and compatriot Pinki Ntsangani. On Sunday 27 January one of the critical minds of the working class movement ceased to think. The working class and the broader democratic movement have lost a dedicated comrade, leader and exceptional thinker!

Comrade Pinki lies before us motionless, lifeless in this cold box that contains his mortal remains. Our hearts are filled with profound grief, pain and sadness at the tragic and untimely death of our dear comrade whom we loved and cherished. We shall cry and mourn at this tragic event that has robbed us of a comrade, friend, brother, uncle, husband and father.

On behalf of the 2 million members of COSATU and its leadership I send our condolences and message of support to Pinkie? family, comrades and the broader democratic movement, in the Eastern Cape. You are not alone in your grief and pain for we have all lost. Indeed, we have lost one of the gallant heroes of our struggle whose name must find its way to the annals of our struggle.

The comrade, who today lies motionless, made an immeasurable contribution to the struggle for the emancipation of African people and the working class. He refused to be shaken by the might of the Apartheid state. Though harassed by the police for his commitment to the struggle he stood his ground and remained steadfast in his belief that freedom will come in our lifetime.

Indeed he was a rare cadre of the movement for freedom, democracy and peace. He was an ideal COSATU leader and member. His vision extended way beyond the workplace. He cut his teeth in the student movement and played an instrumental role in building the trade unions, the civics and the student movement. He belongs to the generation of activists that challenged the mighty apartheid state with only bare hands and stones.

Pinki started his activism in COSAS before joining the trade union movement. Even when he was in COSAS he remained an all-round cadre of the democratic movement. Like many of the COSATU leaders he was baptised in the fiery battles waged by COSAS, the student and youth movement.

SAAWU, led by Thozamile Gqwetha, Sisa Njikelana, Yure Mdyogolo and others offered an opportunity for student activists to organise workers into militant unions that formed COSATU. Pinki is a product of that period. We pay tribute to SAAWU and its revolutionary leadership and the role it played in the lives of many activists in this region.

He was always at the forefront of the people? and workersstruggles to fight for a just and equal society. It is his generation of activists that made Oliver Tambo? call to make South Africa ungovernable a reality.

The apartheid regime victimised him he was expelled from the University of Forthare for mobilising students against the tyranny of apartheid. He suffered from police victimisation becoming a refugee in the land of his birth. Armed with a correct theory and unwavering commitment to the cause of the poor he stubbornly refused to surrender. The apartheid regime failed to crush his spirit.

Today, South Africa is a free society thanks to the contribution of comrades of Pinki? calibre. We are now 8 eight years in our new democratic society. Pinki lived to see the dawn of the society that he fought for. His struggle and that of his comrades was not in vein it led to the installation of the democratic government in 1994.

Still, the task facing the democratic movement is far from over. Close to 30% of our people are still unemployed. Close to half of our population live in poverty, many more do not have access to water, health care, housing, land and other basic necessities. Many of the workers still earn starvation wages and are bound in the yoke of baaskap in the farms and in the suburbs. In a word, South Africa remains one of the highly unequal society in the world.

It is for this reason that Pinki led bitter struggles to highlight the plight of the poor and the working class in general. He fought against job losses and demanded that workers be provided with legal protection against the bossesappetite to cut corners and retrench workers. Today, parliament is on the verge of passing legislation that will give workers a right to strike against retrenchments.

  • We not only gather here to mourn the passing of our hero but to also celebrate the many facets of this life.
  • We celebrate resilience, determination, and courage;
  • We celebrate unwavering determination to free the downtrodden, the poor from the yoke of apartheid colonialism and capitalist exploitation;
  • We celebrate critical thought and criticism;
  • We celebrate honesty, candour and humour.
  • We celebrate selflessness, sacrifice and leadership qualities.

Comrade Pinki is no more his remains lie motionless, lifeless..He will be missed by all of us. His intellect, wit and determination shall be missed by all of us. I will miss his support and advise. He joins many of our martyrs of the revolution. His spirit shall live on his lessons shall continue to inspire many of us and those still to come.

Comrade Pinki was an astute leader equipped with a critical mind. His contributions shall be missed in COSATU structures. This visionary and organic intellectual of the working class shall light the path towards a better life for all.

Comrade Pinki was a die-hard communist to the end. He was unwavering in the belief that a workers state will one day become a reality. It is this vision that has inspired him to remain true to the working class movement. When there is a battle along class lines you knew which side of the equation he belong to. He understood that the working class shall never be free until it has shaken off the chain of bourgeois exploitation. It shall never be free until socialism and ultimately communism is achieved. Many today are ashamed to be associated with communism Pinki- true to his character - held his head high and defended his commitment to communism and the workerscause.

He leaves behind a solid COSATU regional organisation in the Eastern Cape, which he unfailingly served for many years. He together with the Eastern Cape leadership of COSATU, ANC and SACP have built a shining example of how the tripartite alliance should work. The example set by these comrades should be emulated by all of us.

We thank the Ntsangani family for standing behind this hero of our struggle during difficult times. We know you have made a lot of sacrifices including not spending enough time with your son, husband and father. Your sacrifices were not in vein Pinki? sacrifices were also not in vein. Due to those sacrifices we are now a free people, with dignity and can rub shoulders with others as equal and free people.

I salute you Nyawuza,

I salute your integrity;

I salute your honesty and frankness;

I salute your passionate commitment to the workersstruggle;

The workers will always treasure you.

May your soul rest in peace! Lala ngoxolo Nyawuza, usikhonzele kwaba hambe phambi kwakho.