ANC honours ‘Comrade Roy’

2012-05-10 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s political royalty came out in full force, dressed in dark suits, bright ties and hats, to bid farewell to a parliamentary colleague whom mourners, including President Jacob Zuma and KZN Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize, described as the “last of the revolutionaries and freedom fighters”.

No expenses were spared for yesterday’s official funeral for Radhakrishna Lutchmana Padayachie, popularly known to activists as “Comrade Roy”.

The dignified ceremony, lasting five hours at Durban’s Sahara Kingsmead cricket oval, was attended by his wife, activist Sally Pillay-Padayachie, and their two daughters.

Padayachie was on the run and in hiding or often underground at home or abroad when his daughters were babies.

In death the 62-year-old activist who became minister of communications and until recently was minister of public service and administration, pulled together leading political personalities, rank-and-file activists, veteran freedom fighters, religious and figures from across the spectrum in the various communities.

Padayachie’s official funeral, probably the biggest involving an iconic resister within the Indian community, was a splash of colour as mainly yellow bouquets decorated the main stage.

Three life-size colour photographic frames were placed on the red-carpeted stage as the national flag fluttered at half-mast in the background.

The heavyweights in the Zuma administration arrived promptly around 10 am, with the KZN cabinet leading the VIPs. Among them were MEC for Safety and Community Liaison Willies Mchunu, Human Settlements MEC Ravi Pillay and Economic Affairs and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu. Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande led the roll-call of senior ministers.

Also in attendance were Intelligence Minister Siyabonga Cwele, accompanied by a partner, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and his wife, and Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel, were among the members of the Cabinet among the seats in the packed white marquee.

The two senior ministers close to the Presidency, master of ceremonies Trevor Manuel and Collins Chabane, pitched up early to ensure the finer details of the funeral arrangements had been seen to.

Home Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan spoke glowingly about Padayachie’s remarkable conduct in the struggle against apartheid.

Padayachie’s daughter, Trevana, spoke of her father as a gallant and selfless fighter for freedom, human rights and social justice who had finished an endurance race abruptly.

Equally moving was President Zuma’s eulogy, a tribute to an anti-apartheid activist who engaged all and sundry in his quest to contribute to achieving a non-racial democracy.

Padayachie’s coffin was carried across the red carpet and laid on the stage.

His widow and her daughters led the queue of family members, relatives and mourners who paid their last respects.

After premier Mkhize delivered a tribute, Manuel allowed the flag to be folded, according to military tradition, and re-opened for the ministers, MECs, mayors and VIP guests to view the body.

“We have lost a great child of God,” whispered Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Hundreds of activists, all seated in the main cricket stands wearing yellow T-shirts emblazoned with Roy Padayachie’s image, broke into traditional ANC freedom songs.

After a moving Hindu ceremony, Padayachie was cremated before his ashes were strewn over a holy stream blessed by Swami Sivananda.

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