President Cyril Ramaphosa has paid his respects to the late deputy minister of mineral resources, Bavelile Hlongwa (38), acknowledging the dedication that she had shown in the work she did in the government and the ANC.
“Africa has been robbed of a promising star … As government we lost a very important team member in our relatively new executive … The young lions in the ANC Youth League and other youth formations have lost a very accomplished member that they considered an inseparable part of their pride,” Ramaphosa said.
Hlongwa was part of the ANC women’s league’s young women’s desk and on the national working committee. Ramaphosa said the ANC was already considering her for a position in its highest decision-making body, the national executive committee.
The president delivered the eulogy at the deputy minister’s funeral at the Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban yesterday morning. Hlongwa was honoured with an official funeral in line with the government’s state, official and provincial funeral policy.
The national flag has been flying at half-mast at every flag station in the country leading up to deputy minister’s funeral.
She was described as humble, forthright, robust, informed, academically grounded and someone who had the spirit of ubuntu.
Hlongwa had stopped to assist a motorist whose vehicle had overturned on the N1 at Maubane in Limpopo when she became the casualty of a freak accident – “a gesture that on its own gives us a moment to reflect on her character, which one can describe only as a substantial demonstration of ubuntu”, the president said.
Ramaphosa spoke about other people who died in the accident last week and sent his condolences to those families. “These are the families of Kekana in Hammanskraal and Malaka in Soshanguve, who lost their young sons, Katlego and Sipho,” he said. He sent messages of goodwill to others who sustained injuries in “that calamity”.
The president spoke about Hlongwa’s appointment into Cabinet. He described her as a “natural choice” to connect with the youth and inspire them to follow science and technology fields and enter the energy sector.
“If anyone ever had doubts about the contribution that young people could make to the public affairs of our country, Bavelile and other young people we have put in strategic positions have proved that our country has gained from the contribution she and her peers continue to make.”
Hlongwa is said to have died while her department was finalising a youth energy policy to guide programmes and other projects to integrate young people into the energy sector.
“I have no doubt that she was going to play a very catalytic role in this effort. Part of it related to foundational issues of promoting science and technology among pupils at school level, so that they are prepared to enter the energy sector and play a meaningful role in its entire value chain,” Ramaphosa said.
Hlongwa had worked in the public and private sector and the president credited her for being a part a team which restored good governance. She was deputy chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency (Nyda).
“She reached out to young people across the country to promote the funding programmes that are available to improve the opportunities for young people. We have a responsibility to continue her work in significantly by expanding the work of the Nyda and other entities to empower youth through economic opportunities”.
Ramaphosa hailed Hlongwa for her willingness to improve communities and fight social ills, which, he said, was exemplary for someone of her age.
Ramphosa said she was a community worker and caregiver, who faced the challenges and everyday realities of life.
“It is important for young people to learn that service gives one an experience and understanding of society that they cannot get anywhere else. In her university life too, Bavelile Hlongwa was constantly active in service.”
Hlongwa worked in student Christian fellowship, in student politics and was part of the student representative council (SRC) during her studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal – where she obtained her BSc in chemical engineering.