RIP Collins Chabane (1960-2015)

Leadership pays tribute to the late Collins Chabane, whose sudden death sent shockwaves through government and the country as a whole

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Public Service and Administration Minister Collins Chabane, who died in a car accident on March 15, was a man of astute character, according to President Jacob Zuma, who led the tributes to Chabane.

“He has contributed to a great extent and we would like to say the country must really join the family in mourning in dignity,” Zuma said at Chabane’s Pretoria home.

Zuma narrated his close relationship with Chabane. “To me he was like a son. I had known him since he was 17. I was part of those who made him join the ANC,” said Zuma.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu said Chabane’s death is a loss to the nation, his family, and the African National Congress.

“There is no amount of words that can describe the collective grief of the people of KwaZulu-Natal when [this] news broke
out”, he said.

“He was a very dedicated minister and cadre of our movement. [This is] unexpected news and has left us with shock and sadness.”

North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo also said Chabane’s untimely death had robbed the country of a selfless and devoted leader.

Chabane, his driver, and a bodyguard were killed instantly when a truck allegedly made a U-turn in front of their car on the N1 near Polokwane in Limpopo. The accident happened around 01:00.

A member of the African National Congress (ANC) underground, prisoner on Robben Island, previous MEC for Limpopo’s Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Chabane was Minister in the Presidency and a talented musician.

ANC underground

Born on 15 April 1960 in Xikundu Village, in Limpopo (then Northern Transvaal), he attended Shingwedzi High School, and at the age of 17 he joined the ANC underground. Chabane was also a member of the Azanian Student Organisation (Azaso).

He registered for a Bachelor in Science at Turfloop University, but a year later, in May 1980, he went into exile, when he joined Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Chabane also went to Angola for military training in 1980, and began work underground in 1981.

Chabane was arrested by the Security Police in 1984, and was sentenced to six years imprisonment on charges of terrorism. He was imprisoned at the same time as Tokyo Sexwale, Kgalema Mothlanthe, Mosiua Lekota and
Popo Molefe.

During his time in prison he obtained a Diploma in Electrical Engineering from Technikon South Africa, and studied aviation. Chabane also holds a Diploma in Management from Arusha in Tanzania. Chabane also developed his interest in music while in prison, where he learnt music theory and how to play the harmonica from Bafana Sithole.

After his release, Chabane was elected to parliament in 1994, where he served on the constitutional affairs, defence and intelligence committees. In 1997, he was appointed as a MEC for Limpopo, in Premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi’s cabinet. In 1998, he was then moved to public works, where he is credited as having established the province’s Road’s Agency. Chabane was granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1999.

His role as Minster in the Presidency was to create greater cohesion and effective systems in Government, and to alert the appropriate departments when problems arise. Chabane headed the transitional management team that has reshaped the present cabinet.

Genuine humility

Chabane was known for his genuine humility, exemplary work ethic and dedication to the country, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said.

“His contribution to the liberation struggle, and his contribution to his ministerial portfolios has left an indelible mark in the public service,” Mogoeng said in a statement.

Mogoeng said he and Chabane had spoken at the same event on the Friday befor the accident. ”I was deeply touched by his words when he spoke of the importance of Christianity in our lives and further highlighted the importance of prayer - even as a politician.

“It is at times like these that we truly understand the need for prayer, particularly for Mr Chabane and his family who believed in it,” Mogoeng said.

The Thabo Mbeki Foundation also expressed great shock and sadness in the passing of Chabane and his two bodyguards.

The foundation said Chabane was a reflective man who was forever concerned about bettering the lives of the people.

“From a young age, Collins dedicated his life to the struggle against apartheid and became one of the outstanding members of the 1976-generation who did much to intensify our people and movement’s offensive against the apartheid crime against humanity,” the foundation said in a statement.

Devastating loss

The African National Congress Chief Whip Stone Sizani said Chabane’s death was a devastating loss.

“A blanket of sadness and sorrow has indeed befallen all of us at such a devastating loss of a hardworking and loyal government minister and his dedicated members of staff,” he said in a statement.

“Through this tragic, untimely passing, the nation has indeed lost a remarkable individual who served and led with kindness, great humility, humbleness, dedication and energy.”

Stone said Chabane’s death would leave a huge void within the ranks of government and the ANC.

“In the context of the parliamentary caucus, his faithful participation in study groups and other caucus structures, the great wisdom he imparted as well as the vibrant intellectual discourse he stirred, will be greatly missed.”

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille described Chabane as a dedicated minister who served government with great commitment.

“I got to know him well when he was minister in the presidency in charge of performance management and evaluation, and I respected the quality of his work and his commitment to fairness and openness,” she said in a statement.

“The tragedy of his death will leave a vacuum in national government that will be hard to fill in his current portfolio.”

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