Ramaphosa, Zuma pay homage to fallen deputy minister Bavelile Hlongwa
Speaking to the media at her family home in Durban, Ramaphosa said Hlongwa, who died in a road accident at the age of 38 last week, had, despite being highly academically qualified, an ability to understand the country’s needs and “the condition of our people and also her dedication to serve the people of our country”.
“That is what I found most striking with her.
“At a very young age she had already committed to want to serve in a way that would want to improve the lives of our people,” said Ramaphosa.
Hlongwa, who died at the scene on the N1 when she was run over by a vehicle while trying to assist victims of another car accident, will be buried at Chesterville Heroes Acre Cemetery in Durban where veteran anti-apartheid journalist Nathalien “Nat” Nakasa and former Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa and other national heroes lie.
The burial is to follow a funeral service to be held at the Durban International Convention Centre.
At the family’s home in Umbilo, Ramaphosa was accompanied by among others Premier Sihle Zikalala, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini and Sports, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Nocawe Mafu.
Ramaphosa, who is believed to be among those who will attend the funeral service, said he felt “absolute joy” whenever he listened to her views.
“She was always the first to speak, and as she spoke, she articulated progressive and outstanding views.
“And she had a deep knowledge of many things that she spoke about. For me that was a great talent that she displayed.
“So it is a great loss to me as the team leader, a great loss to the team of our national executive and a great loss to the ANC, but more importantly a great loss to the country,” he said.
He said when he appointed her, he had planted the “best” seed for the future as he knew that the country was going to continue harvesting “from her knowledge, talent and commitment.”
“Yes, a young tree that had a great deal of promise for the future has fallen, and we are poorer as the nation and I mourn her deeply,” he said.
His predecessor Jacob Zuma on Friday night told hundreds of mourners at the memorial service held at the Durban City Hall that prior to her death, Hlongwa had expressed to him that she was concerned about certain decisions that had been taken about the department before she was appointed.
Zuma said as he was about to leave for Zimbabwe for former president Robert Mugabe’s funeral service, Hlongwa had approached him at the University of Limpopo, where Dlamini Zuma was being inaugurated as the chancellor, to request an appointment to discuss her concerns about the department.
“I am not going to tell you what is wrong with the department, but there is something seriously wrong and she wanted to discuss it with me and find how did we take certain (wrong) decisions.
“However, as I sat listening to speakers at Mugabe’s memorial service someone came to tell me that the deputy minister is dead.
“I could not believe the same person who wanted to discuss such important matters with me is no more.”
He said Hlongwa was the type of young person he always dreamt of to lead the government, and bring changes.
“She was a rare person. I knew her better when she was in the ANC Youth League as she shook people without fear.
“She was a person who did not say things to please certain people because she wanted a position,” said Zuma.
The department’s director-general Thabani Zulu told the packed city hall the department was bleeding because of Hlongwa’s death.
“We feel robbed, and the reason for that is the deputy minister worked with us for a very short period.
“We only worked with her for three months.
“However, some of us might like to believe that if felt like we had worked with her for three years.
“Since her arrival, the deputy minister had shown energy, intellectual and leadership skills that had been seen on a daily basis.
“Which is why as the department and the whole government we feel very robbed.
“She had developed many programmes that she had initiated in the three months that she had been with us, and we are looking forward to implementing those programmes,” said Zulu.