Politicians pay tribute to ‘revered and reviled’ Rajbansi

2011-12-30 08:05

KwaZulu-Natal DA leader Sizwe Mchunu – the man once labelled as an ornament by Minority Front leader Amichand Rajbansi – was one of the first people to send condolences following Rajbansi’s death.

“Rajbansi was one of the longest-serving politicians in our province and we, the Democratic Alliance, will certainly miss his lively debates in the provincial legislature,” Mchunu said yesterday.

Earlier this year, Rajbansi had been critical of the fact that Mchunu did not occupy the leader’s seat in the legislature, despite being elected as provincial party leader, while John Steenhuisen, another DA member of the provincial legislature, occupied the seat.

This made Mchunu an “ornament”, Rajbansi said at the time.

In a statement issued in March, Rajbansi said he merely wanted to know why the DA had displayed Mchunu as “an ornament for public show”.

Rajbansi said: “I asked if the DA did not let him [Mchunu] sit there because they regarded him as a ‘darkie’.”

But yesterday Mchunu said he prayed that Rajbansi’s loved ones “would find strength through their faith at
this sad time”.

Rajbansi died aged 69 yesterday morning, after being admitted to hospital in Umhlanga, outside Durban, in October with bronchitis.

The African National Congress in KwaZulu-Natal said Rajbansi had a long and remarkable career in politics, spanning “both the pre- and post-apartheid eras”.

“Being from separate political parties we were not always in agreement.

“However we appreciated his efforts to position his party within the framework of our new and democratic South Africa,” said ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala.

He said Rajbansi was always keen to express his associations with ANC stalwarts, such as Moses Mabhida, Chief Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela.

“We believe that this reflected his desire to locate his party in a progressive political terrain, but at the same time maintaining an independent position.”

The ruling party’s national spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said Rajbansi was known for his “near obsession on community issues and issues affecting minorities”.

“It was under his leadership (of the Minority Front) that the ANC entered into a coalition in KwaZulu-Natal when we could not muster the majority vote,” Mthembu said.

“This distinguished him as a practical leader but also as someone open-minded.”

The ANC and Minority Front co-operation agreement led to Rajbansi serving as sport MEC from 2004 to 2009.

The IFP said Rajbansi was one of South Africa’s political giants.

“His deep commitment to deepening and consolidating our democracy cannot be questioned,” IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said.

“He was a man with firm beliefs, who was never afraid to take a stand. His passion for politics and the people of South Africa was commendable.”

Buthelezi said he developed a strong working relationship with Rajbansi during the height of apartheid as members of the Black Alliance.

“Like many politicians, he was both revered and reviled. South Africa has lost a true South African patriot.”

DA leader Helen Zille said Rajbansi helped bring “coalition politics” to South Africa.

“He was one of the people who introduced the idea of coalition politics to South Africa by strategically aligning
his party with others to achieve his objectives,” Zille said.

He was a renowned politician who had served for many decades in various key political positions, both before and after the advent of democracy.

“He had significant influence in KwaZulu-Natal, where he was a well-known figure. The Democratic Alliance wishes his family and political colleagues fortitude during this time of mourning. Our thoughts are with them.” 

The funeral service for Rajbansi will be held at Chatsworth Stadium in Durban on Saturday from 11:30am to 4pm , a family spokesperson Patrick Pillay said.

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