Johannesburg – Deputy President Paul Mashatile on Saturday delivered a moving eulogy at the funeral service of his former speechwriter and spokesperson Percy Sibusiso Mthimkhulu, at the Nasrec Memorial Chapel, Johannesburg.
Mthimkhulu was the chief of staff for Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana when he died peacefully in his sleep on Monday, (3 April 2023). He was 49.
Speaking directly to the late Mthimkhulu’s sister Jabulile and his daughter Tatyana, the deputy president said: “We are here to tell you that your Father loved you.”
Deputy President Mashatile added: “Your Father, irrespective of the work and tasks at hand, would always prioritise you.
“I know he would drive to Kimberly to come and spend time with you.
“One of his wishes for you was that you would grow and attain the best education available, in order for you to become whatever you want to be.
“I promise that we will take care of you. We will work with your mother to ensure you realise your dreams.”
Turning to the rest of the mourners, Deputy President Mashatile said: ”Friends, we are gathered here today to bid farewell to a son, Father, brother, comrade and dear friend.
“I have known Percy since 2004. He was recommended to work with me after working with the former Premier of North West Popo Molefe and the late comrade Edna Molewa.
“Since then, my relationship with Percy blossomed into a camaraderie and brotherhood that withstood the test of time.
“Percy was dependable. He was a proper Mandarin. I would ask him to work on this or that speech, sometimes under extreme pressure, and he would oblige.
“I do not remember him complaining. Instead, he would deliver, and at all times provide quality work.”
The deputy president said on many occasions, he read speeches written for him by Mthimkhulu’ with confidence, “trusting his capacity to adequately capture my ideas and sentiments on most topics of political and administrative importance”.
Deputy President Mashatile said, “We developed a speech writing system; depending on the occasion, we would talk about the nature and form of the event and agree on the message we would like to communicate.
“He would then produce a draft for my comments, which would be followed by a robust and engaged back-and-forth until finally deciding on the speech.
“Besides being my speechwriter, he was also my spokesperson when I was the MEC for Economic Affairs and Finance.
“He also excelled in this role because he came into it with a journalism background and a credible track record.
“Percy [Mthimkhulu] embodied the spirit of the Lembede generation, a generation which placed their energies and capabilities at the disposal of serving the people and the movement.”
Mthimkhulu was largely inspired by the revolutionary leader and philosopher Vladimir Lenin, whose leadership and activism provided society with an alternative, revolutionary perspective on political economy.
Having also studied economics, Mthimkhulu, who earned the nickname “Lenin” was convinced that dealing with the power relations in the economy as a vantage point to liberation was of absolute necessity.
“Like Lenin, he was a political leader, strategist, and philosopher, indeed many of his great works and ideas will always remain with us,” said Deputy President Mashatile.
“The death of a loved one remains one of the most unbearable aspects of life that affords us very little to no preparation.
“Whilst we acknowledge that over the past few months, Percy experienced health challenges, as his loved ones and his comrades, we could have never been prepared enough to have to sit here, and come to terms with the reality that he is no more, and that the very precious moments once shared will never again be.”
The deputy president added: “I stand today at the final resting place of our beloved Comrade Sibusiso Percy Mthimkhulu, this moment is filled with great pain, and anxiety.
“It is indeed the finality of death that causes a collapse of our consciousness and our hearts.”
He said throughout this week, it has been almost impossible to say what Mthimkhulu’s passing means, most critically, what a future without having him available without reservation, to serve the African National Congress (ANC), and the people of South Africa would look like.
“In earnest, words will never be enough to express what we are currently processing as comrades of Percy.
“We should, however, consider ourselves highly privileged to have had the opportunity to have shared moments of joy and laughter, as well as those of despair and endurance, with him.
“To have been given a chance to do life with Percy, is among the best gifts given to me.
“As I have said earlier, I met Percy in the early 2000’s. Percy was an activist involved in the student and youth movement.
“Through various tributes from comrades and friends who knew Percy mainly as Lenin in his youth, it is clear that his devotion to the ANC and this nation was never at any point questionable.”
Mthimkhulu’s love and commitment to the working class and engendering a working-class conscious society inspired by intellectualism, and his affinity to the idea and principle of dialectics, are indeed one of the things that have always been clear about Lenin’s character.
In his activism, he, among other things, valued; both the study of politics and its praxis.
Inspired by the robust culture of youth activism in the early nineties, his generation played an important role in shaping South African politics and discourse when the democratic state was taking form.
His generation was and continues to play an important role in the country, just as he did until his last breath.
“In the 20 years I have had the privilege to work with Percy, I have witnessed the true meaning of selflessness, discipline, and commitment,” said the deputy president.
Mthimkhulu’s introduction into the field of political strategy and developing narratives that would shape the discourse in the African National Congress and in government was at its peak through his involvement in the writing of the economic recovery plan in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We worked closely together, and it is through this that his qualities would be further shown.
“The voice and brilliance of comrade Percy will be forever etched in the books of history through his contribution to the various policy processes of the African National Congress, but most significantly in my own memory of his contribution and commitment to what we both believed and stood for.
“One of the memories about Percy that will forever be engraved in my heart is during the writing of my speech themed ‘My Captain’ when I was Premier in 2008.
“This speech remains one of those which really defined my tenure in more ways than one with him.”
The deputy president said this incident and many others that would follow were a direct reflection and representation of who Percy was; a sharp intellectual who spoke with integrity, humility and great optimism about the future of our nation.
His dedication to principle is something that is to be admired in the ANC and society at large.
“There is no doubt that Percy was confident in his commitment to truth, justice, equality, and the pursuit of a National Democratic Society,” the deputy president said.
“Even through his humility and light humour, Percy was always unwavering in his political views, convictions and the value of service.
“A lot can be said about the life of our brother, a lot also remains unsaid.
“It is, however, our hope that his spirit will continue to live on, and that in our continuing efforts for a better country, his life may be a reminder that the struggle continues, and that our contributions as activists are never in vain.
“In concluding this tribute to a dear brother and comrade, allow me to share a poem by Walt Whitman titled – ‘O Captain! My Captain!’, whose words served as a compass for Percy’s journey, and will always remind me of him.”
“O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear Father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My Father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.”
Deputy President Mashatile ended his eulogy by saying, “It is ill-fated that our journey with him has come to a sorrowful end.
“We will, however, always treasure the times that we shared with Percy. We will remember him by the undying love and passion he had towards his country and its people.
“May the Mthimkhulu family, his friends, and comrades receive my sincerest condolences. Percy has indeed run and finished his race.
“To you Lenin – Lala ngoxolo mfowethu – uMthimkulu, Hadebe, Bhungane!”
Apart from the Mthimkhulu family and friends, government officials that attended the funeral included Finance Minister Enoch Gondongwane, Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. David Masondo, Former Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura, Director General in the Presidency Phindile Baleni, and the Acting Director General of the National Treasury Ismail Momoniat.