TRIBUTE | Prof Hlengiwe Buhle Mkhize was the embodiment of servitude

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Earlier this month, mourners, including senior government officials and ministers, gathered in Johannesburg to remember Hlengiwe Mkhize. (GCIS)
Earlier this month, mourners, including senior government officials and ministers, gathered in Johannesburg to remember Hlengiwe Mkhize. (GCIS)

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane pays tribute to Prof Hlengiwe Buhle Mkhize, who died earlier this month, describing her as a a seasoned leader, a comrade in good standing, a friend, a sister, a wife and a mother. 

The untimely death of Professor Hlengiwe Buhle Mkhize, the Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities is still so painful to come to terms with. I join the Mkhize family, and South Africa at large in shock and sadness as we mourn a seasoned leader, a comrade in good standing, a friend, a sister, a wife and a mother. 

Since the news broke of her death, I have reflected on her life and her contributions to our country and the world. Her invaluable contributions to society are perfectly captured in Albert Einstein's words, "The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive".

Professor Mkhize embodied the true meaning of servitude. She devoted her personal and family time to serving the people of our country, her movement, the ANC and our government. 

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her at the Ministry in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. She had a fine political mind and a genuine commitment to public service. Over the past couple of years I witnessed her passion for the empowerment of our people and the end to social injustices.

She was particularly driven by the need to empower and capacitate women and vulnerable groups in society. She passionately spoke of the need for the voices of youth, especially young women, in all decision-making processes.

READ | Official funeral declared for deputy minister in the presidency Hlengiwe Mkhize

Even in governance, Prof Mkhize always encouraged us to serve the people of this country to the best of our ability.

Her professional background in clinical psychology and serving as a Commissioner at the Trust and Reconciliation Commission, her unwavering spirit to understand the human being and internalise the pain we suffer due to subjugation has remained with me through the years. She will be remembered for her extensive contributions to the development and advancement of our country, among many for being a critical thinker, and an intellectual of note.

She was indeed a visionary who was brilliant, innovative and strategic. As the Ministry of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, we have lost a trailblazer, a humanitarian and a leader who was not afraid to take a stand against injustices.

Beyond governance, I also witnessed her contributions in strengthening the ruling party of South Africa.

Several leadership roles 

She served in several leadership roles within the ANC. She passed on the baton to me as the former Treasurer General of the African National Congress Women's League (ANCWL). We also served together in the United Democratic Force and grew together in the sector of diplomacy, where she excellently represented our country as the country Ambassador to the Netherlands.

In addition to her love for transformational leadership, Prof Mkhize was a teacher at heart and a scholar of note. Those of you who knew her personally would recall her passion for education as an essential tool for addressing many of the social ills facing the vast majority of society. And when given the opportunity, she always used it to teach those around her about her experiences, knowledge and skills. 

Over the past few years we have worked closely to ensure that the mandate of the Ministry of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities is met and is evolved.

READ | Mourners remember Hlengiwe Mkhize as principled and a fighter for women's rights

She often challenged me to continue to amplify the needs of the people we serve, particularly those with disabilities. As the world recognises September as International Month for the Deaf, we remain committed to keeping the teachings and convictions of Prof Mkhize alive to building an inclusive country for all. 

As our country continues to celebrate the year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, I cannot avoid drawing linkages between these two amazing women of our country. Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize will be forever remembered as a stalwart, as an innovator, and someone who has made a tremendous contribution to so many areas she has touched. 

We are grateful to the Mkhize family for sharing Prof Hlengiwe Mhkize with us. May the family and country be consoled by the fact that she lived a life of purpose. I am reminded of the words of one classic Greek author who once argued that "What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others".

We commit to continuing the work that Prof Mkhize believed in – the advancement and full recognition of the rights of women and vulnerable groups. We remain inspired by her legacy and teachings that will sustain us to continue to serve our country and its people wholeheartedly. 

- Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

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