‘A lot of things have gone terribly wrong’

2010-03-15 00:00

DR FAROUK Meer, brother of late struggle icon Professor Fatima Meer, made a controversial call on Saturday for politicians’ salaries to be cut dramatically, and described ANC Youth League president Julius Malema as a “mockery” to the legacy of the South African struggle.

Farouk Meer was speaking at the funeral of his struggle-veteran sister, who died on Friday at St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban, after a long battle with stroke and cardiac-related illnesses that had left her wheelchair-bound.

Fatima Meer’s funeral, held at the Durban Exhibition Centre on Saturday, was declared a state funeral by President Jacob Zuma.

It was attended by, among others, long-standing family friend Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former deputy president and ANC National chairwoman Baleka Mbete, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize and Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

In a speech delivered through tears, Meer said that although there have been positive changes in the lives of the oppressed masses during the post-1994 era, it is regrettable that corruption is thriving.

He also called for politicians’ salaries to be significantly reduced.

“It is regrettable that in most recent times, a lot of things have gone terribly wrong. Good people remain quiet as evil flourishes.

“We must bring down corruption and cut the salaries of politicians. Money paid to suspended government officials is an obscenity. I cannot understand and neither could she,” he said.

He said that these were some of the concerns his sister had during her final days, as she reviewed the journey of the struggle against apartheid.

In an obvious reference to Malema, Meer said there is a young man who purports to be leading the youth, who is a mockery to the legacies of Oliver Tambo, Moses Mabhida and other struggle icons.

“Somebody must talk and restore our legacy,” he said angrily.

While sobbing and obviously touched by the passing of her longtime friend and comrade, Madikizela-Mandela said the last thing she would like to do for Fatima Meer’s family is to ensure that their home in Benwood Road, Sydenham, Durban, is declared a national monument in honour of Meer and her late husband Dr Ishmael Meer’s contribution to the struggle.

In her tribute, Madikizela-Mandela recalled the many years she had spent with Meer as they went in and out of detention and banishment.

Madikizela-Mandela also recalled her last visit to Meer on her deathbed at St Augustine’s Hospital last week.

“After hearing news about her hospitalisation, I came dashing to hospital. Despite the pain she was in when she saw me, she showed me her last smile and whispered: ‘Where is Nelson?’ She then closed her eyes and that was the last time I saw her alive,” Madikizela-Mandela said.

Mkhize echoed the provincial government’s support for Madikizela-Mandela’s call to have the Meer house declared a national monument.

KwaZulu-Natal’s premier described Meer as the leader who never required an election platform to speak for the people.

Delivering a tribute from the ANC’s National Executive Committee, which received the news of Meer’s passing away while in a sitting in Johannesburg, Mbete described Meer as a “giant of the struggle who concerned herself with the concerns of the people throughout her life”.

“We have to take courage from her work, including speaking the truth and sticking to her beliefs, and encourage the younger generation to learn from people like her,” said Mbete.

Buthelezi, who was a student at the then University of Natal with Meer, said he had met Meer in the 1950s.

He gave the mourners a light-hearted moment, when he recalled that she was surprised when she heard that despite being a Meer, she was going to get married to Ishmael Meer.

After the funeral service, which was conducted by religious leaders from different religions, despite her being a Muslim, the procession left for an Islamic service at the Grey Street Mosque in central Durban.

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