OPINION: Comrade ‘Ebie’ was one of the last living legends of a generation of true cadres who were willing to give their all for the total emancipation of our people
by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, MP
I wish to first extend our condolences to Shannon, Sarah, Kadin, and the family of Comrade Ebrahim Ebrahim, whom we affectionately called comrade ‘Ebie’.
We convene today, with swelled tears and hearts full of grief, knowing that Comrade ‘Ebie’ is also being accompanied to the heavens by another dedicated and disciplined cadre of our movement in comrade Lindiwe Mabuza.
We, therefore, take this opportunity to thank the families of Comrades ‘Ebie’ and Lindiwe for having surrendered to our movement these gentle and dedicated revolutionaries.
We shall forever be indebted to the families and are grateful to our ancestors who gave both these comrades long lives.
It feels like only yesterday when we gathered virtually to celebrate, with him, his 84th birthday.
As usual, even on that occasion, comrade ‘Ebie’ did not beat his chest in pride, but rather, he accepted the gestures extended to him with great humility. Even though we could tell the pain that came with his ill health, he did not let his face give it away. Instead, he took the time to remind us that our mission of freeing our people from hunger, want, poverty, unemployment, and inequality was yet to be fulfilled.
On that occasion, he continued to display courage. It is this courage that made him dedicate over six decades of his life to the greatest cause of all.
This dedication often made him to be forever at the doorstep of danger.
Reflecting on his life, 18 years of which were spent in jail, he said:
“I have been actively involved in the struggle for liberation. My life has been one of struggle for peace and natural justice, for a common humanity and a struggle against the greatest single evil of this century, the evil of racism. If I were to choose my life all over again, I would follow the same path. I could never have remained indifferent to the poverty and suffering of the people”.
We are honoured to have met and walked with this humble and stoic colossal. A void shall now occupy his space within our ranks and hearts.
His gentle voice shall no longer linger in our meetings and corridors of decision making. However, his contributions and voice of reason shall forever provide eternal guidance to our decisions and actions.
Comrade ‘Ebie’ was one of the last living legends of a generation of true cadres who were willing to give their all for the total emancipation of our people. Thus, he took and believed in the MK oath, which partially says:
“I place myself in the service of the people, the movement, and its allies... I promise to serve with discipline and dedication at all times... maintaining the integrity and solidarity... with the spear of the nation until victory or death”.
Even though it was at great risk to himself, he was one of the organisers of the 1955 People’s Congress, which produced for us the Freedom Charter. Thanks to the guidance of the likes of comrade ‘Ebie’, the Freedom Charter continues to be the blueprint of the type of South Africa we should be aiming for. The Freedom Charter is what comrade ‘Ebie’ stood for.
Explaining this, he said: “The Freedom Charter is to us like a lodestar which beckons us to the goal of genuine emancipation and happiness of all our people. (It) aims at the restoration of usurped land and wealth, and an end to national humiliation in all its forms”.
Fellow mourners, thankfully comrade ‘Ebie’ leaves behind his memoirs titled “A Gentle Revolutionary”. Those pages contain the characteristics we should seek to emulate as we strive to fulfil the mission of ensuring that South Africa truly belongs “to all who live in it, black and white”.
Thus, in honour of comrade ‘Ebie’, we must spare no effort and move with greater determination and speed to ensure that all the people secure their birthright as well as equal rights and opportunities. This will enable our people to lift themselves out of want, hunger, poverty, unemployment, and inequality. This is what comrade ‘Ebie’ expects of us.
Unfortunately, comrade ‘Ebie’ leaves us at a time when our movement needs his disciplined and unifying voice the most. This is the voice that held no bitterness despite having been sent to Robben Island twice and forced into exile. This is the gentle voice that was forgiving despite having been tortured and abducted from eSwatini to face a bogus trial at the heart of the fascist regime in Pretoria. No doubt the apartheid regime must have heaved and trembled as he won the 1991 appeal against his abduction and bogus trial.
Even as he registered this victory, he did not become complacent, choosing to continue with his contributions without expectation of reward nor position. Thus, he was to be found at the front of our reconciliation and negotiation processes with the principal task of organising the Patriotic Front. This structure of over 900 political, labour, and civil society organisations was at the forefront of rebuilding the internal structures of the Mass Democratic Movement during the transition.
Again, comrade ‘Ebie’ was to be found with the people, not above them. As was the case in the 1950s, he spent hours on end understanding and articulating the conditions the masses were living under. For comrade ‘Ebie’, activism was a calling, which made him not to tolerate any form of injustice and suffering.
Thus, speaking at the Turquoise Harmony institute in 2013, he said: “Our prosperity cannot be achieved at the expense of others. This means that the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, as well as all the other challenges that our society continues to grapple with must not only be dealt with in narrow nationalistic terms but rather through a broader understanding of a national interest that recognises the importance of the plight of our neighbours in the global village.
Consequently, having contributed to the attainment of political liberation, the internationalist that was comrade ‘Ebie’ cast his eyes and energies on global peace. He understood that an underdevelopment and a lack of peace anywhere in the world is a threat to the rest of the world.
This diplomatic role that he played par excellence saw him contributing to bringing peace to many countries on our continent and beyond. As an able, informed, and skilled Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, our movement benefited from the sound and sober approaches comrade ‘Ebie’ brought to that complex environment.
Indeed, it is a welcome gift that our nation and movement should produce a person of the calibre of comrade ‘Ebie’. It is a gift that we should replicate as we seek to fulfil that global mission of development, peace, and justice that comrade ‘Ebie’ lived and was willing to lay his life for.
Therefore, as we bid farewell to comrade ‘Ebie’, we must as a movement introspect and ask the hard question of how we as members of the ANC honour the legacy of comrade ‘Ebie’ and his generation?
First, we must be great listeners, for comrade ‘Ebie’ gave an equal ear to everyone. The recent Local Government Elections have shown us the disappointment the people have towards the ANC. Fortunately, instead of expressing this disappointment at the ballot box, our people chose to stay away. Their patience is wearing thin. The humbling performance of our movement at the polls directs us to rebuild and refocus the structures of our movement.
We must rebuild our structures so that they play an active role in addressing want, poverty, unemployment, and inequality at a community level.
We must refocus our structures away from petty, personalised, and factional politics, towards more selfless structures which are at the service of the people.
We must refashion them into more dedicated and disciplined structures, just as comrade ‘Ebie’ was.
Long Live the Spirit of Comrade ‘Ebie’!!
*This is a shortened version of the Eulogy deliver by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the funeral of the late struggle stalwart