Farewell to our mayor, chairperson, soldier, and commander who died in the call of duty

DAVID MAKHURA

WE bid a reluctant and sad farewell to our mayor and comrade, Geoffrey Moloantoa Makhubo. We are grief-stricken and shaken to the core by the untimely passing of our mayor and our comrade. Our grief and tears must not be mistaken for fear of death or fear of the enemy. One thing common between revolutionaries and people of faith is that we are taught not to fear death. What we fear most is to live a petty life with no purpose, without impact and without a bigger cause that seeks to empower and liberate others.

The question is not whether we will die or not; nor is it how long you will live. The pertinent questions are: what did you live for? What difference did you make in the days of our lives? Did you try to leave the world a better place than you found it?

Mayor Geoff Makhubo has answered the above questions with an emphatic yes. He lived a colourful, fulfilling, and impactful life that enhanced and enriched those he encountered. From his days as a student and youth activist up to the last moment as the mayor, he was involved in battles to protect, mobilise, empower the masses and poor communities.

We have lost a true soldier and servant of the people.

As family, friends, and comrades we are grief-stricken and heart-broken by the monumental loss of a leader of Makhubo’s calibre. As we mourn his untimely passing – and yes, to mourn is human – we also celebrate the breath-taking life of this gallant freedom fighter who has fallen in the battlefield as our nation wrestles with coronavirus.

Beneath our tears and sorrow are great memories about the distinct revolutionary personality and legacy that Makhubo leaves behind. His legacy lives in his family, in the communities in Johannesburg, in various structures of the democratic South Africa, in local government and in the many international bodies in which he served, always with great skill, tactical application and selfless dedication.

Beyond our grief and pain lies a great dream and an unwavering commitment to emulate the way in which Makhubo lived his life: building a transformed city and inclusive province with strong democratic institutions, resilient dynamic infrastructure and prosperous communities where people live in peace and harmony.

We bid farewell to the man whose name fits his life so well – Moloantoa – a battle-tested freedom fighter who was like a tempered steel; a brilliant and great tactician who took so much effort to unify and avoid petty fights; an astute intellectual who had no pretensions to superior intellect.

Makhubo was generous, patient and paid painstaking attention to detail and to numbers. We fought many battles together. Some won and others lost. There are times when he would just be plainly stubborn and difficult to convince. But once he agreed with you on the way forward, you could rely on him to the end.

In all the battles – from the anti-apartheid struggles in the student and youth movement, through to the many conferences up to the battle for better governance and renewal as well as the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Makhubo proved to be a talented and capable soldier and commander who was always in the frontline.

He put his life on the line many times serving the cause of the people as a brave youth leader and as the leader of the City of Joburg in the recent period.

We bid farewell to a soldier who died with his boots on. He contracted COVID- 19 working on the ground to ensure communities are mobilised and educated in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like a true leader, he was not comfortable with leading the battle against COVID-19 from the comfort of his home. True to his nature, Mayor Makhubo was always in touch with the pulse of the communities and the structures on the ground.

On Sunday 11th July, I stood before the Makhubo family and said that as the Premier of the Province, I am the one who sent Mayor Makhubo to battle, as I have done with many leaders of provincial and local government during the battle against the invisible but virulent enemy of coronavirus. I am very sorry that we lost this brave soldier.

During the weekend that he possibly contracted Coronavirus, I was out with him at Chris Hani Baragwanath visiting a site that was pioneering weekend vaccinations.

After that weekend, he sent me a message that I must go and test because he had just got feedback – he tested positive for COVID-19. I was concerned but continued to encourage him and wished for his speedy recovery.

I am deeply saddened that we lost Makhubo in this battle: one of our most talented tacticians and battle-tested commanders. This is a serious setback to the cause but not a defeat of our army. It is a great loss to our city and our province, and to South Africa, but this is no moment for despondency and despair.

When we go into battle, we know that we may not return. When we leave our homes to go to communities to advocate for their safety and awareness, as well as rallying them to vaccinate, we know the risk and exposure it carries for ourselves and families. But like soldiers, we still take the risk to lead from the ground because that’s what the revolution and true leadership entails.

Makhubo took the risk fully understanding that soldiers may die in battle protecting their communities and countries. As he moved from street to street, area to area, community to community, he was conscious that he might fall in battle but always hoped to see the day of victory, convinced of his choices and the justness of the cause of the people.

To the family, friends and comrades, perhaps we should draw comfort from “Last Words of a Soldier”:

“ The time draws near when perhaps we will bid each other a long farewell, for the decrees of fortune are uncertain and no one with our limited capacity can penetrate the murky curtain that veils the unknown future. Perhaps if we could read the record of futurity as it stands systemised by Him whose brow has glittered with immortal majesty from the hoary annals of eternity, we might not pass through the fires which lie before us. I go forward to brave the dangers by which we are today threatened, with victory or death, emblazoned in living characters upon my ensign…When that land shall be polluted by the filthy tread of our enemies that are now waging an unjust war upon us, I hope that it will take place after my remains sleep in the lonesome grave of the soldier. If it should ever fall to my lot to face the instruments of death, where perhaps cannon balls may rain around me, I shall think of my own sweet friends that I have left behind. If I fall while fighting for my country, I want you to honour me as a fallen soldier who fought for honour of his own dear land. If I never meet you again in this world, I hope that we will meet each other in that land of love where our names will glitter like sparkling diamonds upon the tablets of eternity.”

I believe these are the words that our soldier, Makhubo uttered silently every day when he left his home to join and lead the many battles that he fought to change society and make his city and his country better.

The Makhubo family has lost a loving husband, a son, a father, and a key anchor. This is a very trying time for the family. Ausi Nono Makhubo, Mme Matlakala, the children and the siblings, may God extend His healing hand over your wounds so that in time you heal.

Today we publicly thank you, the Makhubo family, for sharing Moloantoa with us.

The fond memories of a life well-lived will continue to nourish you, strengthen you and lighten the burden you are carrying.

As you would know yourself, Makhubo would have loved to see you overcome the grief of his loss and go on to reclaim your lives, to pay tribute to his memory through being strong and bold in the way you look forward, and in the way his children, your children, continue where he left off.

Please take comfort from the meaningful life he lived. His life made a deep impact on history; it helped change our country from one backward state to the one where human beings are proud to call South Africa their home.

His untimely departure is a profound loss to the metropolitan government and city regions in the continent and the globe, to which he brought enormous skill and insights on local government finance and inclusive urbanism. The guru of local government finance is no more.

This is also a very trying time for our city and its Government of Local Unity (GLU). I urge the parties to the GLU to continue working together to fulfil Mayor Makhubo’s dream of getting Johannesburg back on track and fixing this great City and restoring its pride of place as the economic engine of Gauteng and financial nerve centre of Africa.

We have an obligation to admit and state the truth that the City of Joburg lost direction after the 2016 elections and many great initiatives were dismantled by the coalition that took over and made it difficult to implement the 2040 vision of the city and the Gauteng City Region’s Transformation, Modernisation and Re-industrialisation programme in Johannesburg. Infrastructure and service delivery in both the townships and suburbs started to crumble and collapse, despite many false and propagandistic attempts by the DA-led coalition to paint a picture of an administration at work.

Since taking over the helms of the City in December 2019, Mayor Makhubo and the GLU team have been hard at work to fix the problems of infrastructure and service delivery.

Let us ensure that we give full momentum to the programme and plans that Mayor Makhubo was leading to attend to the cries of the people of the City’s townships, and suburbs, informal settlements and hostels regarding crumbling infrastructure and poor service delivery.

Let us honour our soldier by working together as the city and the province to address the problems of housing, the economy, jobs, poverty, and unemployment.

 Makhubo immersed himself in all the relevant battles of his time not as a distant observer and commentator, but as an active participant. He helped to shape the temper of our times. He was a man whose soul was geared to the vicissitudes of his times. He was in touch with even the smallest and remotest settlement in his City.

The ANC in Johannesburg has lost the glue that held it together. Whatever challenges you faced, the reality is that Makhubo is one of those leaders I could call and say “marumo fatshe” when tensions were rising, and he would listen.

The REC and the activists of Joburg have a huge responsibility to keep the region united under these difficult conditions of loss of an able and charismatic commander.

In the past few days, I thought a lot about Mayor Makhubo as we are battling against political opportunists and criminal elements who are looting and torching businesses in several communities in Gauteng. Makhubo would have been out there on the ground talking to communities and mobilising to stop any violence and looting. He would have gone out there to call for calm as he did on many occasions when there were outbreaks of violent protests and xenophobic attacks.

Makhubo would have not allowed counter-revolution, criminality, and political opportunism to destroy the many efforts put into the building of infrastructure and promotion of the township economy.

I would like to take this opportunity to call on all the activists of our movement, all community leaders, and leaders of civil society to take a strong stance against the violence and looting and stop the thugs and their political sponsors on their tracks. We

must take charge of our communities and work with law enforcement agencies to restore order and peace as we did on many previous occasions.

We cannot allow trashing of our constitutional democracy and its democratic institutions. We cannot be held to ransom through wanton violence and destruction of lives and livelihoods. We are going to defend our democracy and rebuild our economy from the grassroots up.

The perpetrators of these acts of counter-revolutionary violence have used the desperate situation of hunger, poverty, and unemployment as well as the grievances of service delivery as a trigger. As we respond to this attempt to cause anarchy, we must pay urgent attention to speeding up programmes that seek to address the social and economic problems of the majority in our communities.

However, the most immediate is to mobilise communities and law enforcement efforts to stop the looting and violence, and to apprehend the organisers of these activities.

We would like to commend communities that have already responded to our call by taking action to protect businesses and infrastructure in partnership with law enforcement agencies.

From Hammanskraal, Eldorado Park, Soweto, Alexandra and Tembisa, communities have been organising themselves to say the destruction of our economy and livelihoods must not be allowed. Criminality, mayhem, and lawlessness is now being confronted by communities themselves.

Let us takes steps urgently to stop the looting and violence. Let us rebuild and reconstruct a more inclusive economy and revitalise our townships.

Let us protect our infrastructure from criminality and political opportunism.

Let us work with urgency to re-open businesses and support SMMEs so that there are more jobs and incomes, better housing, access to education and healthcare for all.

Let us be unwavering in tackling unemployment, poverty, inequality, gender-based violence, crime and corruption.

Let me once more assure the people of our province that the Government is doing everything possible to stop the public violence, looting and arson and derail the counter-revolutionary plans that seek to destroy our major infrastructure and disrupt our economy and service to the people in the middle of a virulent pandemic.

At the same time, we will expedite measures to implement economic recovery efforts and infrastructure rehabilitation so that service delivery is restored, including the provision of health services and vaccination of all those who are 35 years and above.

We are also stepping up measures to deal with the crude reality of urban poverty, hunger, unemployment, and inequality with greater urgency.

As we pay homage and send off a true soldier who died with his boots on, we must return to activism and take our rightful place on the correct side of history. Whatever challenges we face, we cannot allow any forces that want to cause anarchy and destruction of our country to succeed. We must push them out of Gauteng.

Let us come together to build our communities. Let us ensure that we learn our lessons and re-build our communities.

We run the risk of food insecurity and breakdown of services which endanger the fight against COVID-19. Our health facilities are at risk of grounding to a halt, with dire consequences for thousands of lives across Gauteng.

We need to have the transport and freight services back in operation as soon as possible. Medical, food, fuel, and other essential supplies critical for the normal daily operation of the country must assume operations.

Let us make our country work. Let us continue the legacy of comrade Geoff Makhubo and those before him, by working to build our future and not burn it down. Let us say, “Down with burning down our country.”

Let us call out and expose counter-revolution, criminality, populism, and opportunism for trying to use the masses as a shield to pursue their criminal intent of undermining and trashing our constitutional democracy.

Working with the masses of our people and law enforcement agencies, we must take the battle to these forces and make them aware that they will be defeated.

We will not retreat from the twin tasks of our times and challenges of our generation: the fundamental renewal of the ANC and broad democratic movement and the radical socio-economic transformation of our country.

All these we shall do in honour of Comrade Moloantoa Makhubo, our mayor, chairperson, soldier, and commander who died in the call of duty.

*This is an edited eulogy by David Makhura, the Premier of Gauteng, at the funeral of Geoff Makhubo, the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg.

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