Deputy Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize was laid to rest on Saturday in what President Cyril Ramaphosa described in a moving eulogy as a “sad day indeed”.
The 69-year-old “tried and tested” member of the African National Congress (ANC) passed away on Thursday, 16 September.
In a moving eulogy, President Cyril Ramaphosa described the professor as a “great South African” who cared for others and understood that those who were less fortunate or had erred in their ways deserved a second chance.
“Being a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Commissioner gave her firsthand insight into the effects of apartheid on the collective psyche of our nation, and on the appropriate interventions needed to heal these deep wounds,” said Ramaphosa.
“We will remember her for her humanism.
“She believed, as should we all, that the wrong people do in life does not make them undeserving of a second chance.”
Professor Mkhize’s training as a clinical psychologist gave her a deep understanding of the needs of people, particularly those of children, vulnerable women, and people with special needs.
“On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, I convey my deepest sympathies to the family of our dear professor Hlengiwe Mkhize,” said the president.
“Her passing was so sudden and the news came as a shock to us all. Professor Mkhize was a fine public servant who served her country with diligence.
“This is a real blow to the administration, to our team in the Presidency, to the ministry, her colleague Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and to the country at large.”
Deputy Minister Mkhize was an exemplary public servant, amongst the finest.
She was dedicated, committed, hardworking, and a consummate professional.
Since 2019 she was deputy minister of women, youth, and persons with disabilities in the Presidency.
Before that, Professor Mkhize held various positions in the national executive; as home affairs minister, and as higher education, science, and technology minister.
She also served as deputy minister for correctional services, deputy minister of higher education, deputy minister of economic development, and deputy minister of telecommunications and postal services.
Between 2005 and 2008 she was South Africa Ambassador to The Hague.
“This is an extremely broad range of experience. It is testimony to Professor Mkhize’s versatility, her adaptability and above all the depth of her expertise,” said Ramaphosa.
“I regard her as a woman of all seasons. She was fit for purposes in whatever role she was assigned to.
“We knew that whatever portfolio she was assigned to, she would throw herself fully into it, and take it upon herself to become fully acquainted with the sector and its issues.”
Professor Mkhize also served as chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications.
“Comrade Hlengi was a tried and tested member of her organization, the African National Congress,” said the president.
“She was a member of the National Executive Committee and also served as treasurer-general of the ANC Women’s League.
“Deputy Minister Mkhize has left a void in the ANC, the more so at this crucial time when we are preparing for local government elections.
Ramaphosa said the ANC was counting on seasoned leaders like her to rally people to participate in the elections in November.
“No doubt she would be out with us in our communities, her mask on, bag firmly in hand and in a pair of sensible flat shoes for door-to-door.
“She had boundless energy and a cheerful spirit, even when she was not well.
“I will miss running into her in the corridors at Luthuli House where she’d pull me aside for a quick chat that was the classical elevator pitch; concise, to the point.
“When she spoke of problems, she also told me how she was resolving them.”
The president recalled that Abraham Lincoln once said that character is like a tree, and reputation it’s shadow.
“The shadow is what we think of it, but the tree is the real thing. Comrade Mkhize was of both good character and good reputation. She was the real thing.” said Ramaphosa.
“At a time when ethical servant leadership is being called for, this accomplished but humble leader is the example we all look to.”
In the final send-off, the president said: “Lala ngokuthula MamuMkhize Gcwabe, Khabazela!”
The humble professor was laid to rest in Fourways.