Tributes continue to pour in for the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development, Violet Siwela.
Born on April 26, 1956, Siwela, affectionately known as Comrade MaVee by those close to her, died on January 18, 2023.
Her friend, colleague, and comrade, Faiez Jacobs, a Member of Parliament and Whip for the Small Business Portfolio Committee and former ANC Western Cape Provincial Secretary, said Siwela would be remembered for her strength and wisdom, "mirroring the majestic baobab in the heart of the African National Congress and our nation".
"We remember comrade MaVee, whose life was like an imposing baobab tree in full bloom: elegant, impressive, regal, and a truly magnificent sight to behold," Jacobs said.
He said she was a beacon of hope and a tireless advocate for the empowerment of the underrepresented and marginalised in South Africa.
She would be remembered, he added, for her dedication to her community and her family, including the ANC family.
"She was our strength, our support, and our guide. She was more than a leader; she was a mentor, a friend, and a source of strength to all who knew her," Jacobs said.
"Comrade Violet was more than a political figure; she was a dedicated advocate for education, equality, and justice. Her academic achievements laid the groundwork for a career marked by deep commitment and significant contributions to our society. Every degree and diploma she earned was a stepping stone towards her goal of uplifting others," he said.
Jacobs said that Siwela was a pillar within the ANC and the government of Mpumalanga, whether as an MPL, Deputy Speaker, or an MEC.
"Her focus was always on improving the lives of those she served. She tackled her roles not just with professionalism but with a heart full of compassion and a spirit of service. Comrade MaVee's fight for gender equality and the rights of women and children was fierce and unwavering. She didn’t just speak up for the vulnerable; she actively worked to bring about change, making our society more just and fair," he recalled.
Siwela became a Member of the National Assembly in 2019 and, at the time of her passing, served as the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Small Enterprises. She brought extensive and diverse experience in the legislative sector and public service, having previously held positions such as Speaker of the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature, MEC for the Departments of Agriculture and Human Settlements, and Executive Mayor of the Bushbuckridge Municipality.
Jacobs said her belief in the power of connection and understanding was at the core of her work on the National Small Enterprise Amendment (NSEA) Bill.
"As a Member of Parliament and whip for small business, I saw first-hand her dedication to this cause. In October and November of 2023, at great sacrifice to our families, we crisscrossed more than 30 districts. In these public hearings, we daily saw her commitment to listening to and uplifting local voices, especially in advocating for small enterprises. Comrade Violet's approach to the NSEA Bill was not just about legislation; it was about bringing real change to the lives of entrepreneurs, particularly women, youth, and those with disabilities. She saw the potential in every suggestion, from protecting business ideas to incorporating artificial intelligence to solve modern challenges. As we stood in the Rustenburg White Town Hall, listening to the voices of the people, Violet's resolve to push this bill forward was clear. She understood its importance and worked tirelessly to make it a reality," Jacobs said.
"As we honour her, we feel the profound loss of her passing, yet we also find strength in the powerful legacy she leaves behind. We remember her not just for the battles she fought but for the hearts she warmed and the community she uplifted," he added.
The Presiding Officers of Parliament, led by the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Amos Masondo, expressed their profound sorrow at the untimely passing of Siwela.
"She was passionate about the economic liberation of the nation's previously marginalised majority and, through her leadership of the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development, exemplified an unwavering commitment to achieving a significant and transformative shift in the economic landscape. At the time of her passing, she was leading efforts within the Portfolio Committee to draft groundbreaking legislation aimed at empowering small businesses and ensuring their meaningful contribution to economic growth," the presiding officers said in a statement.