STEPPING DOWN: Minority Front leader Amichand Rajbansi posing in front of a poster showing him embracing former president Nelson Mandela. Picture: Puri Devjee

 

KwaZulu-Natal DA leader Sizwe Mchunu - the man once labelled as an ornament by Minority Front leader Amichand Rajbansi - was one of the first people to send condolences following his death on Thursday.

“Mr Rajbansi was one of the longest serving politicians in our province and we, the Democratic Alliance, will certainly miss his lively debates in the provincial legislature,” Mchunu said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Rajbansi had been critical of the fact that Mchunu did not occupy the leader’s seat in the legislature, despite being elected as provincial party leader, while John Steenhuisen, another DA MPL, occupied the seat.

This made Mchunu an “ornament”, Rajbansi said at the time.

“I simply wanted to know why Sizwe Mchunu, the DA Leader in KwaZulu–Natal, was not sitting in the Leader’s seat during parliamentary proceedings but instead the party’s John Steenhuisen was sitting in that seat...” Rajbansi said in a statement issued in March this year.

He said he merely wanted to know why the DA had displayed Mchunu as “an ornament for public show”.

Rajbansi said: “I... asked if the DA did not let him (Mchunu) sit there because they regarded him as a 'darkie'.”

But on Thursday Mchunu said he prayed that Rajbansi's loved ones “will find strength through their faith at this sad time”.

Rajbansi died, aged 69, on Thursday morning, after being admitted to hospital in Umhlanga, outside Durban, in October with bronchitis.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal said Rajbansi had a long and remarkable career in politics, spanning both pre- and post-apartheid.

“Being from separate political parties we were not always in agreement.

“However we appreciated his efforts to position his party within the framework of our new and democratic South Africa,” said ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala.

He said Rajbansi was always keen to express his associations with ANC stalwarts, such as Moses Mabhida, Chief Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela.

“We believe that this reflected his desire to locate his party in a progressive political terrain, but at the same time maintaining an independent position.”

The ANC and Minority Front had a co-operation agreement which led to Rajbansi serving as sport MEC from 2004 to 2009.

The IFP said Rajbansi was one of South Africa's political giants.

“His deep commitment to deepening and consolidating our democracy cannot be questioned,” IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said in a statement.

“He was a man with firm beliefs, who was never afraid to take a stand. His passion for politics and the people of South Africa was commendable.”

Buthelezi said he developed a strong working relationship with Rajbansi during the height of apartheid as members of the Black Alliance.

“Like many politicians, he was both revered and reviled. South Africa has lost a true South African patriot.”

DA leader Helen Zille said Rajbansi helped bring “coalition politics” to South Africa.

“He was one of the people who introduced the idea of coalition politics to South Africa by strategically aligning his party with others to achieve his objectives,” Zille said in a statement.

He was a renowned politician who had served for many decades in various key political positions, both before and after the advent democracy.

“He had significant influence in KwaZulu-Natal, where he was a well-known figure. The Democratic Alliance wishes his family and political colleagues fortitude during this time of mourning. Our thoughts are with them.”

The speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature said in a statement that Rajbansi would be missed by “both friends and political rivals”. - Sapa