Thomas Sankara, in a speech titled A death that must enlighten and strengthen us, paid tribute to Samora Machel, who was killed on October 19 1986 when his plane crashed in South Africa in what is believed to have been an assassination by the apartheid regime.
In that speech, Sankara called for the people of Burkina Faso and all revolutionaries across the world not to weep, for two reasons. The first was “to avoid falling into sentimentalism”. Sentimentalism which “makes one not to understand death”.
“It belongs in the messianic vision of the world, which, since it expects a single man to transform the universe, inspires lamentation, discouragement and despondency as soon as that man disappears,” he said.
“Another reason we should not weep is to avoid being confused with all the hypocrites here and elsewhere – those crocodiles, those dogs – who make-believe that Samora Machel’s death saddens them. We know very well who is saddened and who is delighted by the disappearance of this fighter,” he said.
“We do not want to join in the competition among cynics who decree here and there this and that many days of mourning, each one trying to establish and advertise his distress with tears that we revolutionaries should recognise for what they are.”
When the death of Thembekile “Kimi” Makwetu, the outgoing Auditor-General of South Africa, was announced on November 11, many compatriots were saddened and cried genuine tears. They knew him to be the man who, just 13 working days shy of completing his seven-year term in office, carried a heavy responsibility on his shoulders. He led arguably the most difficult institution – the Auditor-General’s office – one of six Chapter 9 institutions mandated by the Constitution to support our constitutional democracy.
It is my humble opinion that all the other Chapter 9 institutions can be said to be a walk in the park when compared to the Auditor-General’s office, bar the office of the Public Protector.
Many ordinary South Africans, may not automatically know who are the heads of the Human Rights Commission, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, the Commission for Gender Equality and the Electoral Commission of SA.
Instead, the Public Protector and the Auditor-General have become the most known individuals, popular and unpopular, celebrated by some and detested by others. This is because of what they have come to represent in the push and pull between the forces of good and evil of our nation, depending on which force each of us, individual citizens relate to and is represented by.
Thembekile, an isiXhosa name meaning “the trusted one”, when he was appointed the Auditor-General in 2013, was trusted and entrusted with a heavy function, a heavy duty to, among others, audit and report on the accounts, financial statements and financial management of all national and provincial state departments and administrations; all municipalities; and any other institution or accounting entity as required by national or provincial legislation.
Now, family, country men and women, comrades and friends of Thembekile, kindly lend me your ears and eyes. I wish to bury Kimi, not to praise him, as many professionals, politicians and many honourable people have already done since his death and have spoken at his funeral.
I qualify to do so as a friend and comrade of Kimi, who served with him as young activists and members of the student movement, the SA National Student Congress during our days at the University of Cape Town (UCT), 30 years ago.
When I left UCT and last saw Kimi in June 1990, Nelson Mandela had been released from prison in February that year. We were youthful BA social sciences graduates, full of enthusiasm and hope for the future of our country. In 1994, we voted for the first time and ushered in the new democracy.
Thembisile Chris Hani – Thembisile, an isiXhosa word for “promise”, never lived to see the “promised land” as he was murdered on the eve of our democracy. But Thembekile was to occupy the front row seat to bear witness the worst fears expressed by Hani a few months before his death when he said: “What I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists who drive around in Mercedes Benzes and use the resources of the country to live in palaces and gather riches.”
I borrow from the words of Mark Anthony at the funeral of Julius Caesar – a prose by William Shakespeare – to attest that as many of you will agree, having heard and observed the Auditor-General over many years, that “when the poor have cried, Kimi hath wept”.
Thembekile, true to form and to his name, carried out the functions of Auditor-General with honour, faithfulness, integrity, dignity, diligence and grace till the last days of his life. He did this, despite being diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2018. He never paused, never stopped, never complained till the last day.
As the chairperson of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts, Mkhuleko Hlengwa said in his tribute to Makwetu this week, he “died with his boots on”. He did this like a soldier who had gone to war, a war against corruption, malfeasance and mismanagement of the country’s public finances and resources, committed by many who Makwethu considered friends and comrades.
It was a painful irony and sad revelation to scores of South Africans that he was at war against two enemies – a cancer that was ravaging his body and a cancer of corruption and state capture destroying our nation on a daily basis.
Undoubtedly, his work and that of his team of reputable auditors that he has been lauded for grooming, made him the enemy, a foe, to many politicians, especially in his beloved ANC, and public servants whose looting of state funds he uncovered and reported on to the nation, for seven years.
On one such occasion on May 28 2018. I sent him a message of appreciation and encouragement, acknowledging the evidently stressful and strenuous work he was doing. His response was: “Thanks Dike, we’ll stick our necks out for as long as it matters.”
And so he did stick his neck out, tired and weak, till the end.
This song – The impossible dream – composed by Mitch Leigh with lyrics by Joe Darion, summarises Makwetu’s work as the Auditor-General:
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
And to run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
And to love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
Ooh, no matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march, march into hell
For that heavenly cause
And I know
If I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart
Will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest.
We wish strength and light to the incoming Auditor-General, Tsakani Maluleke. Heartfelt condolences to Kimi Makwethu’s wife Miranda and their children.
Rest well my brother. uThembekile wena Zikhali. Phumla bhuti!
Molatoli is a social justice activist and director at Bambooseeds Communications