Hon House Chair, hon members, the Botha and the Nkoana family, distinguished guests, on 18 January 2015 the cruel jaws of death snuffed out the precious life of Comrade Tommy Nkoana, a freedom fighter, a people's tribune and a tireless revolutionary. Today, the ANC, the glorious people's movement, lowers its banner in honour of and in fond memory of one of its most illustrious sons and an hon Member of this Parliament, Frans Hlakudi "Tommy" Nkoana.
Comrade Tommy Nkoana was born on 13 September 1963, in Rathoke, Moutse West, a very dusty rural village mired in abject poverty. But Moutse West is abundantly rich in its propensity to produce freedom fighters. Moutse West is home to many worthy heroes and heroines of the struggle for liberation, such as the late Ephraim Mogale, the very first president in 1979 of the Congress of South African Students, Cosas, Comrade Piet Mello, Comrade Rooi Diphofa and Comrade Menemene Lesu, to mention but a few.
Comrade Tommy started schooling at Rathoke Primary School, proceeded to Mabake High School and completed his tertiary education at Kwena Moloto College of Education. Because of his skilful soccer wizardry, he earned the nickname "Tommy" among his peers and had a visible social presence at a young age. I have known Comrade Tommy for 23 years and I had the privilege of doing political work with him. While I served as the regional chairperson, he was regional secretary.
One day he told us that he joined the progressive revolutionary youth organisations Cosas and Sasco because he could not countenance the stark social, economic and political contradictions that characterised apartheid South Africa; a South Africa characterised by white opulence on the one hand and abject poverty for blacks on the other. In his book titled For Whites Only, Charles Cilliers, a white compatriot who is not an ANC activist, says, and I quote:
The world of apartheid was so perverse that if I could have been given the choice to be a very clever black kid or a very stupid white kid, if I wanted to live a good life I might have been well advised to choose being a stupid white kid. During apartheid, the cleverest black kid was likely not to achieve a quality of life that the dumbest white kid could achieve.
Comrade Tommy hated "Bantu education" and the general oppression of his people by the apartheid system. He said that he joined the liberation struggle because he was inspired by the valiant heroism of the warrior kings such as Sekhukhune, Thulare, Nghunghunyani, Nyabela, and the bravery of young lions such as Comrades Fawcett Mathebe, Njinga Sindane, Ephraim Mogale, Peter Mokaba and others. His yearning for freedom was rekindled by the liberation of Mozambique and Angola in 1975 and the seizure of power by the revolutionary forces in Zimbabwe in 1981.
Comrade Tommy is a product of the tumultuous mid-80s, when P W Botha, "die Groot Krokodil" [the Big Crocodile], contrived a total strategy to stem what he called the total onslaught against his government. This securitisation of the state made it as totalitarian as it was authoritarian. Comrades will remember that two states of emergency were declared in 1985 and 1986 respectively, but people decided to defy them. Die Groot Krokodil het nie gedink die ANC sal regeer en ons mense se nasionale doeleindes bewerkstellig en verwesenlik nie. Die ANC is nou besig om die Vryheidsmanifes se beleid te implementeer. [The Big Crocodile did not think the ANC would rule and bring about and realise our people's national objectives. The ANC is now in the process of implementing the policy of the Freedom Charter.]
Mr P W Botha inadvertently unleashed the political radicalisation and militancy of the youth at that time. Comrade Tommy was in the front trenches of the struggle led by Cosas and Sasco, such as consumer boycotts and making South Africa ungovernable.
He was a very diligent teacher who was passionate about his profession. His students say that he was always on time and he was a disciplinarian. As a teacher, he joined the SA Democratic Teachers Union, Sadtu, a union whose mission was to fight for a nonracial people's education and to better the working conditions of educators.
No sooner had President De Klerk in 1990 announced the unbanning of the ANC and other political organisations than Comrade Tommy joined the ANC in the Rathoke branch, where he soon became a branch secretary and later a Moutse West zonal secretary. We were impressed with his monthly political reports to the regional executive committee and Comrades Sello Matshoga, Viljoen Mtsweni, Speedy Mashilo and I decided to campaign for him to be regional secretary.
He served as regional secretary for 13 years, making him the longest- serving secretary of a region in Mpumalanga province. It is for this reason that he was affectionately known as mongwaledi [secretary] even when he was already here in this Parliament. I remember vividly that as a secretary, he was time-conscious, and he kept his reports and the minutes properly. He had an amazing memory for remembering the names of many comrades, the branches they came from and the troubles they caused, if any.
He communicated organisational decisions very well and implemented even the unpopular ones fearlessly because he understood the principle of democratic centralism. Not only was he a lucid thinker, but he was also a combative debater. He did not suffer fools. As secretary, he was centrally involved in all the general election campaigns, from 1994 up to 2014, including the local government elections. He ensured that the election structures, the branch election teams and the regional election team were functional and able to prosecute the campaigns.
We deployed him to be regional director of sports, arts and culture in the Nkangala region, while I was MEC for sports, arts and culture in Mpumalanga province. Once again he distinguished himself in this responsibility. Comrade Tommy also served a stint as political advisor to the premier, Comrade D D Mabuza.
As I conclude, he was deployed here in Parliament after the 2014 elections and he served in two committees, that is, the Portfolio Committee on Communications and the Portfolio Committee on Labour, chaired by Comrades Joyce Moloi-Moropa and Lumka Yengeni respectively. He was deployed in the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality's Parliamentary Constituency Office to do constituency work. Around August or September 2014, his health visibly deteriorated. Hon J J Skhosana conferred with me that we must advise him to go home and we persuaded him to do just that. Unfortunately, on 18 January 2015, the heart of this stoic fighter ceased to beat.
Comrade Tommy was a loving father and husband to Mrs Florah Maja-Nkoana and they were blessed with four children. We owe the family a deep debt of gratitude for supporting him while he was doing political work for the ANC and the alliance - a freedom fighter, a people's tribune and a tireless revolutionary.
Khamba kuhle mongwaledi khamba kuhle kutana, khamba kuhle kur'narha yomzabalazo. [Go well, secretary; go well, hero; go well, champion freedom fighter.]
May his revolutionary soul rest in peace.
Ngiyathokoza. [Thank you.]
Agreed to, members standing.