23 March 2015
Following a state funeral, Collins Chabane was buried on Human Rights Day at the local cemetery near his ancestral village of Xikundu in Saselemani, Limpopo.
The public service and administration minister died in a car crash on the N1 in Limpopo, on 15 March. Two of his bodyguards, Sergeants Lesiba Sekele and Lawrence Lentsoane, also died in the collision.
Delivering his eulogy at the official funeral service, President Jacob Zuma said South Africans should be prompted by the deaths to reflect deeply on road safety.
“The manner in which we lost him and the two police officers calls upon us to reflect deeply on road safety. Drivers should observe the rules of the road, whether they see traffic officers or not. It is up to all of us to drive safely and save lives. The carelessness on the roads cannot continue in this manner,” he said.
“The human cost is enormous. [The] government cannot solve this problem alone; it requires the commitment and actions of all road users.”
Zuma extended his condolences to the Chabane family and the families of Sekele and Lentsoane. “We also lost the lives of dedicated police officers, Lesiba Sekele and Lawrence Lentsoane. Their passing was sudden, tragic and shocking. We once again extend our deepest condolences to the Sekele and Lentsoane families, who are also laying their loved ones to rest this sad weekend.”
Chabane was seen as a patriot who was admired and respected for his simplicity, humility and intellect. “We have seen the week-long celebration of the life of a man who dedicated his life to the struggle for freedom, justice and equality, and who has also served his country diligently since the dawn of freedom,” Zuma said.
In 2014, when the country celebrated 20 years of freedom, Chabane led the development of the 20-year review, critically assessing the progress of the ANC government since 1994. In the new administration after elections later that year, he was appointed minister of public service and administration.
The president urged public servants to follow Chabane’s vision and serve people with dignity and respect. “From our licensing departments’ staff to those responsible for applications for social grants and identity documents to nurses, police officers and those handling municipal enquiries, let us put our people first in memory of Minister Chabane.”
Human Rights Day
The day of his burial – Human Rights Day – symbolised his unwavering commitment to the entrenchment of a human rights culture in the country. “As we bid farewell to Minister Chabane on Human Rights Day, we acknowledge the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for democracy and reaffirm our commitment to advance human rights as enshrined in the Constitution.”
The official funeral service took place at the Salema Sports Ground in Malamulele, Limpopo. There was also a prayer service at the Xikundu Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Family member Ronald Chabane made the announcement of the death. “Mr President, your son who you’ve always trusted is no more. We announce it officially that he is no more. To all the Mhingas [Chabanes], your lovely son is gone. Collins is gone, we’ll never see him again,’ he said.
The family had lost a man, a giant. “He had a tiny body but a big brain.”
Tributes came from Chief Hosi Xikundu, Chabane’s son Matimba and his daughter Tsakani, and other family members, as well as from Cosatu and churches. A ceremonial guard of honour from the South African National Defence Force was in place as the cortege left for the cemetery.
Chabane’s funeral was an official funeral category one; these are reserved for serving ministers, speaker of the National Assembly, Chief Justice, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and premiers of provinces. His official memorial service was held on 19 March at the Tshwane Events Centre, where thousands of mourners came to pay their respects.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa was appointed the acting minister of public service and administration.