Mr Speaker, hon members, family members of the late Sister Bernard Ncube, ladies and gentlemen, ... sanibonani. [... I greet you.]
Thank you for the opportunity to pay homage to a remarkable person, someone who truly lived a life of selfless struggle - Sister Bernard Ncube. Sister Bernard led by example when she entered the community of the Order of Companions of St Angela as a very young woman. This was not done because of any selfish motive but, unlike many who proclaimed to be Christians and render only an outward service to God, Sister Bernard knew it was impossible to please God without faith. She understood that Jesus came so that we may have life abundant. This is the reason she took the yoke of Jesus upon herself and became a co-worker of Jesus to free the people from the shackles of apartheid, shame and poverty. It is obvious that Sister Bernard's deep and abiding faith in the power of her Creator was the reason for her existence. Everything she did was therefore just a logical step in her understanding of what the essence of being human was all about.
It was this faith that gave Sister Bernard the courage to face her tormentors when they unleashed their forces of evil against her and the communities she served. Rooted in the struggle was Sister Bernard. It was this faith that sustained her and kept her true to the Scripture teachings after countless bouts of detention. It was this faith that made Sister Bernard believe that South Africa would be free one day.
The Scriptures implore us to love our neighbours as ourselves, and it was this belief that led Sister Bernard to be her sister's and her brother's keeper. Not only did she know the Scriptures, but she practised the Word. Like the biblical heroines, Sister Bernard stayed true to her faith. She was a Deborah of this country, leading and advising her people until we could all sing the song of victory; the song of freedom.
Like Esther, Sister Bernard was a heroine in a time of oppression; her faith in her Creator never wavering. Sister Bernard knew inherently that if God were with us, who could be against us? She also knew that with God everything was possible. Sister Bernard, in the true tradition of the great women disciples of Jesus, like sisters Mary and Martha, bore witness to extremely painful times. However, like Mary Magdalene, Sister Bernard knew that weeping may last for the night, but that joy comes in the morning, when she, along with millions, witnessed the resurrection of our country in 1994.
Sister Bernard's life was not lived in isolation from the wider faith communities that she was a part of. She followed in the footsteps of other faith leaders who lived their beliefs in the praxis of a contextual theology - ladies and gentlemen like Chief Albert Luthuli, Dr Beyers Naude, Dr Charlotte Maxeke and many others. In their understanding of the Scriptures and theological witness, they knew how to discern the meaning of and contribute to the course of social change.
These great women and men took their inspiration not from classic texts on behaviour, but from the harsh realities that they and the majority of South Africans faced at that time, always keeping in mind what the future possibilities of a free South Africa might be.
Wayeyibona-ke inkululeko ingakafiki uSista Bernard Ncube. [Sister Bernard Ncube visualised the freedom before it came to pass.]
When called upon to serve in the first democratic Parliament, this woman of God once again put her faith in the organisation that she knew assisted our people through the worst excesses of the apartheid regime, a system that was very cruel to humanity, dehumanising people and making them subhuman because of their colour. Like our other great icon, Madiba, Sister Barnard lived for that which she was prepared to die. She understood that she was created in the image of God and therefore she lived to fulfil the purpose of her Creator. She needed to be respected as an equal human being. Knowing that what she was doing could lead to her death, she understood that living a life of purpose and contributing to the common good was a higher calling - and this is what ignites the desire to do more.
She embodied the principles of the party she represented - the principles of nonracialism, nonsexism and democracy. She did not shy away from inconvenient truths; she was guided by faith, nothing more and nothing less. Her religion did not prevent her from fighting for the emancipation of women and for equality. She also fought for economic freedom.
When I met Sister Bernard in this august House in 1994, both of us newly elected Members of Parliament, I was drawn to this woman of faith, small in stature but large in belief - belief in justice for all. Sister Bernard led an interparty prayer group, but never imposed her doctrine on others. She was humble and faithful to the cause she dedicated her life to. We used to pray together in room 206 every Wednesday morning, and she was dedicated to that. Sister Bernard prayed, because she knew that prayer was the sibling of perseverance; that patience was a spiritual virtue and that one needed to stay focused while awaiting the fruits of one's labour. She knew that to overcome supernatural obstacles you needed supernatural intervention, which you could obtain through the intercession of the Creator.
Sister Bernard, you fought a good fight.
Ukulwile ukulwa okuhle. Uliqedile ibanga lakho, usulindele umqhele wakho kanye nabaningi. [You fought a good fight. You finished your course; you are now awaiting your crown together with the others.]
We all feel privileged for having had Sister Bernard Ncube as one of those who contributed to building a democratic, nonracist and nonsexist South Africa. Sister Bernard fought a good fight. When people like this die ... sithi: balele, baphumule abafanga. [... we say: they are sleeping, resting; they are not dead.]
We thank her family and her religious community for having been part of shaping the life of this remarkable woman of faith.
Kwangathi sonke singathi: "Mphefumulo wami nyathela ngamandla". Sisho njengo-Deborah wakudala owathi uma enqobile esebuya empini wathi "mphefumulo wami nyathela ngamandla". (Translation of isiZulu paragraph follows.)
[My wish is we that all say: "March on, my soul! Be strong". Saying it like Deborah of the olden days who, on her return after having won the battle, said these words, "March on, my soul! Be strong".
She displayed all that was good and respectful. She has now taken her rightful place at the side of the Almighty. May we never forget her.
Robala ka kgotso mme wa rona. [Rest in peace, our mother.] Lala ngoxolo qhawe lamaqhawe. Hamba kahle. [Rest in peace, great heroine. Farewell.] Thank you very much, hon members. [Applause.]
Agreed to, members standing.