Respected Durban advocate Mvuseni Ngubane was with President Jacob Zuma on the morning of his death and showed no signs of distress.
“He was his usual self, laughing, jolly and normal,” Zuma remarked while delivering his eulogy at Ngubane’s funeral at the Durban ICC on Friday. “If there was anyone who owed him something, it would be me. If there was something bothering me, he would assist me, free of charge. His death is a tragedy for all of us, a loss to the family and the country.”
Ngubane was found in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound in the head last Saturday.
A pistol was also found.
A blood-stained note was found on the back seat of Ngubane’s Mercedes-Benz at his luxury Kloof home. He was 54.
Yesterday Ngubane’s brother, Boy Ngubane, said no one knew what had led to the suicide.
“All the things people are saying are just hearsay. No one’s come forward with anything believable.”
Ngubane dismissed widespread claims that his brother’s firm was under financial strain.
“It’s not true. I’ve spoken to his colleagues and they’re denying it.
“My brother bought two tables at a conference of the Consumer Foundation for his colleagues. His company also made a contribution to the event. It’s a strong sign that they were not struggling financially.”
Ngubane said the suicide letter cited a “decline” in the volume of work, which confused the family.
He also poured water on allegations that the suicide was related to the arms deal investigation, for which his brother had been appointed secretary.
“He was not the accused. And the investigation hadn’t even started. Even if there was a problem… if someone was in trouble he would seek protection, not kill himself.”
Ngubane – described by many as intelligent, a level-headed thinker and a respected legal stalwart – was laid to rest at Lalakahle cemetery in Botha’s Hill, KwaNyuswa, on Friday.
Zuma, Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize, former chief justices Sandile Ngcobo and Pius Langa and other leaders were among the hundreds of mourners.
An emotional former KZN judge president Vuka Tshabalala read the obituary, highlighting Ngubane’s achievement.
Ngubane, who hails from Msinga, was appointed by Zuma last year to act as secretary on the committee appointed to probe the arms deal.
He also handled high-profile cases including those of Sifiso Zulu and Sheryl Cwele, former wife of the state security minister.
Ngubane was chairman of the Durban branch of the Black Lawyers’ Association and served as the national president for two terms. He also co-chaired the Law Society of SA in 2005 and served as the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in 2009.
He was managing director and founding partner of the Durban-based law firm Ngubane and Partners Inc.
Delivering his eulogy, one of Ngubane’s many close friends, Mlindeni Mzila, said Ngubane was a man who worked hard for his education because schools in Msinga were scarce.
“During the Struggle, men were trained for battle. This was a man who was trained for battle. He was a very intelligent man, unique,” said Mzila.
At this point Ngubane’s uncle Alfred Madlala was overcome with emotion and shouted his clan names.
University friend and radio personality Joe Hudla said he noticed that something was wrong when he last saw Ngubane in March.
“I saw something that made me worry that day. All you need to know is that there was nothing that he could do, his days were over. Find comfort in God, His timing is never wrong,” said Hudla.
His brother Bhekabantu Ngubane said the family still needed answers as to why he did it.
“As a child he always wanted God to take him early before he sinned,” said Ngubane.
Black Lawyers’ Association president Busani Mabunda said Ngubane was a distinguished and level-headed thinker he would remember for his honesty and integrity.
Don Mkhwanazi agreed, saying: “This man respected confidentiality. This is a major loss to our democracy and regardless of what has happened, a beautiful story needs to be told about this beautiful soul.”
Radebe said Ngubane’s death added to the deficit of exemplary black lawyers in SA.
“This is a major blow for us because for a black law firm to be established for years it needs to have overcome some hurdles.”
He said this was not only a loss to the judiciary but to the nation.
Mkhize described Ngubane as an activist whose works had stories to tell.
“He often gave advice to the ANC in the most complicated matters, even government matters were referred to him. We have lost a real professional and our presence here testifies of the kind of man he was.”
Zuma said Ngubane played a key role in the resolution of conflicts in the taxi industry.
In 1996 after the country adopted its new constitution, Ngubane assisted 150 families during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.
“He was indeed a humble man, ready for service at all times when called on to do so,” said Zuma.
He praised Ngubane for his brilliant and versatile mind and said he would always be remembered by many as a mediator par excellence.
l Additional reporting by Agiza Hlongwane.