President Cyril Ramaphosa paid tribute by apologising for how Dr Zola Skewyiya was treated at Luthuli House, when he delivered the eulogy at the late stalwarts official funeral in Pretoria on Saturday.
Ramaphosa did not shy away from recounting an incident "this gallant member of the Luthuli Detachment was" subjected to in the later part of his life. Skweyiya was stopped at the doors of Luthuli House when he tried to meet the leadership of the ANC to discuss issues relating to the organisation.
In the last few years Skweyiya was part of ANC stalwarts who were quite critical of how government was being managed, especially the failure to tackle corruption. They had also called for former president Jacob Zuma to resign.
"Such was the pain and disappointment of this cadre, who gave his life to our organisation, that he said: “Here I am and I don’t even know where the ANC is.” ... To this departed warrior of Umkhonto we Sizwe, his family and all our stalwarts, please accept our sincere apology for the distress that this may have caused," Ramaphosa said.
The president of the country and of the ruling ANC vowed to never again "disown and dishonour those who have dedicated their lives to the movement and the cause of our people."
Ramaphosa also hailed Skewyiya as "the architect of our progressive social assistance programme, which has been responsible for substantially pushing back the frontiers of poverty", in reference to Skewyiya's appointment as the first minster of social development after it was renamed from the department of welfare.
Under his leadership, Ramaphosa said that he traversed the country to make sure that grant recipients received what was due to them and that his continued championing of the child support grant had a significant impact on "an entire generation of young people."
"Thanks to his work, more children have survived, more children have thrived and more children have been able to attend school. He achieved all of this without fanfare, without spectacle," Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa, who cut short his commonwealth heads of state visit in London to deal with violent protests in the North West, called for unity in the Mafikeng area and asked that people take leaf from Skweyiya's life in this regard.
"We can be certain that Zola Skweyiya would have been concerned about the violent protests that have seized the North West in the last few days. Like the violence that he confronted in the early 1990s, such violence can only serve the interests of those opposed to transformation and the progress of our people."
Read the full speech here: