South Africa: Zola Skweyiya Was an Exceptional Humanitarian, Intellectual and Diplomat

press release

The following motion was delivered by the DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Stevens Mokgalapa MP, in Parliament today.

On behalf of the Democratic Alliance (DA) allow me to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dr Zola Skweyiya, as well as the ANC.

Words cannot express enough the loss you have suffered, as he was a man with impeccable struggle credentials and a distinguished academic career.

Born as Zola Sidney Skweyiya on 14 April 1942 in Simon's Town. He went to school in Port Elizabeth and Retreat in Cape Town and matriculated from Lovedale School in Alice in 1960.

He became an ANC student activist during his studies at Fort Hare University where he mobilised for Umkhonto we Sizwe. He joined the ANC in 1956 until his exile to Tanzania. He also underwent military training in Russia.

In 1978 the ANC deployed him to Germany to study law where he obtained an LLD degree. He was later deployed as a representative of the ANC and was responsible for setting up offices of the ANC in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1981.

He later was tasked to head the ANC legal and constitutional department in Lusaka until 1990 and in Johannesburg until 1994. On his return from exile, he was the chair of the ANC constitutional committee and served as an NEC member until 2012.

He also served the New Democratic South African government as first Minister of Public Service and Administration under late President Nelson Mandela from 1994 to 1999 and served again as Minister of Social Development from 1999 to 2009 under former President Thabo Mbeki.

Dr Skweyiya played a significant role in South Africa's Democratic dispensation with active participation in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), and he represented the ANC at the United Nations Human Rights Council between 1984 and 1993.

He was an astute member of the military veterans and they have indeed lost a gallant soldier.

He was an intellectual who contributed to founding the Centre for Development Studies and South African Legal Defence Fund at the University of the Western Cape.

Dr Skweyiya was also an astute diplomat who made an impact as the head of UNESCO's Management of Social Transformation programme, and President of the Intergovernmental Council.

He also participated in the United Nation's Commission for Social Development, making a significant contribution in this multilateral forum and flying the South African flag high as a diplomat par excellence. His contribution in UNESCO is well documented.

He also played a key role in the University of Oxford's Department of Social Policy Intervention, assisting in the programme for poverty eradication and building quality evidence-based social policy research and training. His memorial lectures from 2011 to 2015 were hosted by the Centre for the analysis of South African social policy in recognition of his contributions as Minister of Social Development.

It was as a High Commissioner and Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 2009 until 2014 where he made his mark as a patriotic and skilled diplomat, championing the bilateral relations between South Africa and the United Kingdom.

He also made a significant contribution with regards to multilateral relations when he was appointed as a special envoy to the Middle East conflict in 2014 where he worked tirelessly to find a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He held talks with both sides of the conflict showing how impartial and diplomatic he was, using soft diplomacy as his strongest attribute.

Let us all learn from this humanitarian, intellectual and exceptional diplomat who prioritised the well-being of South Africa and its people.

This is the kind of diplomat that our country needs to put brand South Africa on the global map. He had the courage to speak truth to power and was vocal against wrongdoing and deviation from principles and values.

We salute you for that bravery.

Rest in Peace son of the soil.

Go Mokgathlo wa ANC rona re le mokgathlo wa DA re re gomotsegang. Modimo o ne a Neile mme o buile o tsere a Mowa wa rre Skweyiya. O robale Ka kagiso mogaka wa digaka modimo a go tshegofatse. Isithwalandwe.

Ke a leboga

Stevens Mokgalapa MP

DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation

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