Members of the Makupula family
Colleagues in the Cabinet
Eastern Cape Premier and MEC’s
All MEC’s for Education
Senior Government Officials
Members of the Media
Comrades and Friends
Programme Director, comrades and friends, Comrade Makupula has shuffled off this mortal coil. As his spirit has departed, we gather here to return his remains to the ground. As the Holy Bible says, “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19).
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, these words mark the final curtain, a separation of this mortal life and beginning of eternal one. It’s final roll call. There will no echoes of encore, encore. These words cut through the façade of, ‘I am strong, and I shall not cry.’ Today, I am proud to say, I am not strong. Yet, I shall not weep. I shall not pronounce the words, he is dead. I shall not whisper, he is no more. Surely, as Shakespeare says, ‘To weep is to make less the depth of grief.’ As the basic education sector, we are heartbroken. Gutted.
On behalf of our Government, the basic education sector, the people of South Africa and the Tripartite Alliance, we send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the Makupula family. Equally, we send our deepest sympathies to his childhood friends and comrades of the Tsolo Township, extension 1 Duncan Village where he was born and raised. We hasten to heartily thank you for having lent us your finest son. He was indeed one of a kind. We are indeed poorer without him. However, the Makupula family must take solace in that your loss is shared across the length and breadth of our beautiful land.
As it is to be expected, we are left reeling from shock and sadness that always accompanies any bereavement. As we know, tomorrow is not promised, to young or old alike. He had run his race. Today, we return him whence he came. He is at peace. He suffers no more.
Even this is a little consolation to his wife, children, extended family, and comrades alike. To all friends, comrades and family we say, ‘Death, be not proud.’ As John Donne insisted many centuries ago that death is a feeble enemy, ‘One short sleep past, we wake eternally / And death shall be no more.’
Comrade Makupula died on the eve of his 57th birthday. Like many cadres before him, he was an outstanding freedom fighter and a true servant of the people. He comes from that pedigree of the 20th century of freedom fighters such as Cde Chris Hani, Mama Albertina Sisulu, Cde Joe Slovo and former President Nelson Mandela. Some among us might have forgotten that Cde Makupula was identified and recruited by the SACP underground machinery while he was a high school pupil. Thus, he is a veteran of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), the stalwart of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and life-long disciplined member of the African National Congress (ANC).
But there was something that stood out for me; he had a special gentleness in his demeanour that drew one into him. He had no airs and graces about him. And, that is the character of a true gentleman. No matter how far he scaled the ladder of leadership within the Tripartite Alliance, he insisted that he was nothing more than a teacher.
He would say, “I’m a teacher by profession. That’s what I was trained for by my parents … they gave me that, and they can never take it away from me. I’m a maths and science teacher.” As we know, he taught for many years as a specialist maths and science teacher after he had completed a Bachelor of Science as well as a post graduate qualification in education. He was a truly well rounded teacher as he also participated in various sporting codes such as Rugby, Soccer and Boxing. No wonder, our dearly departed was nicknamed the ‘Principal’ by his comrades because of his love of imparting knowledge, in this case the Marxist-Leninist thought.
To drive the point home about his humility, he told the Daily Dispatch in 2017 that he “never chose” to be an MEC and doesn’t know why he was chosen for the job. He made it clear that deep down in his heart he knew that eventually he would vacate the seat as MEC for Education. Some would say he had a premonition about his own death. He told the newspaper, “As it rises up … it must also come down.” Indeed, he has vacated the seat of life for good. We are left poorer without your wit, your wisdom, and comradeship.
Farewell my brother. Please send our collective regards to Cdes O.R. Tambo and Chris Hani, tell them you carried the spear forward and played a vital role in the struggle for the liberation of the South African people from the yoke of oppression.
Comrade Makupula served the people of this country with integrity and ethical leadership. He was a dedicated and hardworking public representative. He was committed to turning the basic education system around here in the Eastern Cape. As the longest serving education MEC in this province, we were starting to see progress being made under his leadership. In the 2017 National Senior Certificate examinations, the Eastern Cape was the only province that registered an increase in the Matric results, under his capable leadership. His passion for education will be sorely missed. It is incredibly sad that he didn’t live long enough to reap the fruits of his labour. I am certain that his legacy will live on through the education initiatives he put in place to improve the quality and efficiency of basic education here in this province. Makupula’s tenacity and humility preceded him.
The South African Communist Party (SACP) has described you as an incorruptible and loyal servant of the people. Even the Democratic Alliance agrees saying you were prepared to listen to your political opponents in the interest of education. In a statement, the DA said of you, ‘he was a man who was willing to listen, and who would put the interests of education first. He tried his utmost best to make a difference.” From far afield, the Quality Examination Assurer, Umalusi said you would be remembered, “As a very insightful and knowledgeable MEC who was passionate about education.”
Some of us who also had an opportunity to work with him know this to be true. Some among us may know that Cde Makapula was a committed communist till the end. He was always preoccupied with the nervous condition of the poor and downtrodden, the lumpen proletariat as it were. He was particularly concerned about the poverty of the child, subjugation of women and the tyranny exerted by the bourgeoisie over of the working class.
The African National Congress and the entire Tripartite Alliance, we are today left poorer as Cde Makupula has departed. We can say without any fear of contradictions that you were a true servant of the people. To many you were a teacher, a communist, a political educator, a mentor, a friend and above all else, you were, till the end, a disciplined cadre of the Left forces led by the SACP.
We owe it to Cde Makupula and his generation to be on the right side of history through unapologetically continuing to champion the values and principles that he lived and died for. Our task as revolutionaries in the 21st century is to take the last mile towards the economic freedom, total emancipation of women, and liberation of the girl children in our lifetime.
I say goodbye my friend and comrade Mandla Makapula. I know that good friends never say goodbye.
But well, there’s good in goodbye. Just like ‘there's a “hell” in hello, “lie” in believe, “over” in lover, “end” in friend, “if” in life.’ ‘It's not the goodbye that hurts it's the flashbacks that are set to follow.”
I am assured that, ‘Goodbyes aren’t forever, they are not the end; it simply means I'll miss you until we meet again.”
Lala ngoxolo nkokheli, sodibana kwelizayo!!!
I thank you.