Former journalist Zwelakhe Sisulu embodied the qualities needed for SA’s continued struggle against poverty and inequality, President Jacob Zuma said Saturday.
“That struggle calls for the type of sacrifice, dedication and commitment that comrade Zwelakhe displayed.
“It calls for supreme loyalty to the movement and the country,” Zuma said at Sisulu’s funeral in Randburg.
Zwelakhe was one of the children of struggle stalwarts Walter and Albertina Sisulu.
Zuma said Walter and Albertina had dedicated themselves to building a new SA and their children shared in these values.
“Their children imbibed that spirit of dedication, commitment, patriotism and spirit of no surrender until freedom was gained in their country,” Zuma said.
Zwelakhe’s brother and Speaker of the National Assembly Max Sisulu agreed, saying he had embodied the qualities of his family.
“He was calm and courageous, funny and warm, strong and loving,” Sisulu said.
Sisulu said Zwelakhe had “embodied the legacy of our parents” as well as being “the product of our struggle”.
During his remarks Sisulu was overcome with emotion and asked for his wife, Elinor, to help him complete his eulogy.
He noted that Zwelakhe was his younger brother and “was supposed to follow protocol and not jump the queue”.
This was a testament to Zwelakhe, who preferred to do things his own way, said Sisulu.
The funeral was attended by several political and media heavyweights, including Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, Nelson Mandela’s wife Graca Machel and Zwelakhe’s friend and business partner, Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Zwelakhe and Moseneke together formed the first black-owned business to be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, New African Investments Limited.
However, their relationship went back further to when they were both activists against apartheid.
“He boasted an afro hair style. He had an African dashiki shirt and his fist was in the air more than any place else,” Moseneke recollected.
He and Zwelakhe both agreed not to go into politics, though Moseneke said Zwelakhe could have easily found a seat in Parliament.
“We could serve other people in other ways than politics,” Moseneke said. “He had a near disdain for power.”
Zwelakhe, aged 61, died in his sleep in his Johannesburg home last Thursday.
In the 1980s Zwelakhe emerged as a champion of alternative media and freedom of expression and, as a result, was harassed and imprisoned.
He founded and became editor of The New Nation, which provided a platform for the liberation and mass democratic movement.
Zwelakhe was arrested and detained for lengthy periods without trial during the apartheid era.
His harassment prompted international media organisations to call for his release.
He was also the founding leader of the union, the Media Workers’ Association of SA.
In 1994, Zwelakhe became group CEO of the SABC.
He also served as a media officer for former president Nelson Mandela.
He is survived by his wife Zodwa, daughter Zoya, sons Moyikwa and Ziyeka, and granddaughter Lilitha.
The funeral, which was more of a celebration of life, attracted the who’s who of SA politics, with political enemies and rivals within the ruling party shelving their differences to honour him.
There was ANC Treasurer Mathews Phosa, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa and Cope’s Smuts Ngonyama.
There were also friends and the general public consisting of the downtrodden from Orlando West, Soweto, where Zwelakhe grew up.
His coffin entered the hall carried by former friends in the struggle, former presidential spokesman Murphy Morobe, and former ministers Valli Moosa and Sydney Mufamadi.
One of Sisulu’s friends in the struggle, Vusi Khanyile, said: ”Zwelakhe’s leadership qualities, especially on the New Nation, were vital because it helped spread the message.
“He was also influential in shaping the direction education should take through the National Education Crisis Committee,” said Khanyile.
The ANC’s Gauteng provincial secretary David Makhura, told mourners that through New Nation, Zwelakhe succeeded in getting the message through to the leadership in far flung areas of SA and to the leadership in Lusaka.
“He wrote stinging editorial comments under ‘Lest we forget’ in New Nation.
“He was a brave journalist, who was not afraid of arrest because he knew it was inevitable anytime,” said Makhura. - Sunday Independent