Tributes as Kate Zuma buried

2000-12-17 14:14

Johannesburg - President Thabo Mbeki and his wife Zanele Mbeki were among dignitaries who strew petals and soil on the grave of Deputy President Jacob Zuma's wife, Kate Zuma, at Johannesburg's West Park Cemetery on Sunday.

Mbeki and his predecessor Nelson Mandela earlier in the day paid tribute to Kate Zuma at a state funeral at the Standard Bank Arena.

Kate Zuma, 44, died on December 10, in Pretoria. She was married to Jacob Zuma for 18 years and was the mother of four of his children - Mxolisi Saady, 22, twins Duduxani and Duduzile, 18, Phumzile, 15, and Nhlakanipho Vusi, 8.

Mbeki said Kate Zuma's brave contribution to the fight against apartheid was an inspiration and her death at 44 came too suddenly.

"She left us too early. We have many task as ahead of us and I am quite certain she would have played a part in these," he said, speaking at the funeral service in Johannesburg's Standard Bank Arena.

Kate Zuma was born in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg on September 2, 1956.

In 1974, her family left Soweto and moved to Mozambique. In Maputo, she obtained a diploma in languages. She was able to speak almost all of South Africa's official languages, as well as Portuguese, German, French and ki-Swahili.

In 1976, she joined Mozambique's airline Linhas Aeroas De Mozambique (LAM) at Maputo airport and began an extensive career in the air travel industry.

She met Jacob Zuma shortly after joining LAM and they married in 1982.

Her career with LAM culminated in her appointment as Deputy station manager in Harare - a position she held until 1993.

Her position at LAM allowed her to do work for the African National Congress in its struggle against apartheid. She facilitated clearances for ANC cadres who had no identification and travel documents, particularly those who had left South Africa and were travelling into exile and those who were going into Mozambique clandestinely and needed to return to South Africa undetected.

She was also involved in arms smuggling for the ANC.

Mbeki paid tribute to Zuma, who he described as "An unknown soldier, a quiet comrade", who shouldered the burdens of being a wife, mother and a freedom fighter without asking for recognition.

Former president Nelson Mandela also expressed great sadness at Zuma's untimely death. He was unable to attend the internment at the cemetery.

"With her death at the very young age of 44, South Africa has suffered a great loss. A developing society must look to the energy, skill and experience that someone like Kate possessed," he said.

Mandela said Kate Zuma made a crucial contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle especially in using her position at LAM to aid the ANC.

"Without her many of our operations would not have been possible," he said.

Mandela said Zuma's unceasing eagerness to learn was an inspiration to South Africa's youth.

"If each and every youth could (continue to learn and study) South Africa would grow."

Veteran anti-apartheid activist Adelaide Tambo said Zuma was one of a breed of women who gave their strength to the fight against apartheid.

Tambo said Zuma's spirit, devotion to cause, selflessness and warmth of heart would be sorely missed.

"I know the cycle of life and death, I wasn't quite ready to let go of this one," she said.

Remarking on the attendance of the Palestinian ambassador at the funeral service, Mbeki said Kate's contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle was a reminder to South Africa.

"What Kate did says to us we must do more to ensure the people of Palestine obtain their freedom," he said.

The Zuma's eldest son Mxolisi Saady read a message from his father in which he said his wife had always been a "pillar of strength" for the family.

"I will try to now be mother and father to our children, but it will be difficult," he said.

Zuma's funeral was attended by Winnie Mandela, speaker of Parliament Frene Ginwala, veteran anti-apartheid activist Govan Mbeki, Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Minister of Defence Mosiuoa Lekota, Governor of the Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad and delegations from Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia, where she helped foster relations with South Africa.

Jacob Zuma's former wife, Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, sent a message of condolence. - Sapa