FUNERAL SERVICE OF
BISHO STADIUM : MAY 4, 2002
Today the country is in mourning for the death of one of its most highly placed leaders. With the death of Minister Steve Tshwete, South Africa mourns many others who, throughout the country, are dying in the prime of their lives. The death of Minister Tshwete came as a shock to all of us. He was a man larger than life, full of energy and with boundless optimism and joie de vivre. No one could have been less associated with the fear of an untimely death than such a great champion of vitality.
His untimely death highlights how we all are at constant risk. Life is fragile and must be preserved. Having reached my age, it is very painful to see young people such as Minister Tshwete, with a life of contributions and achievements ahead of them, departing in the prime of their lives. One can only mourn for the many achievements which death deprived Steve Tshwete of contributing to the future unfolding of South African history. At the same time, our country and our people have been deprived.
Minister Tshwete had to fulfil one of the most difficult and invidious responsibilities in the new South Africa. As Minister of Safety and Security he was called upon to provide a service which affects all South Africans. Through his leadership the services of our police force were dramatically improved, even though they could not reach the level of general expectations. Even in this, one could see the stature of Steve Tshwete who was a man who never denied or down-played problems, but recognised them and did whatever he could within the limits of our Government and the circumstances of South Africa, to improve on them. He was a man who knew no despair and I am sure he did not know the meaning of defeat. He was an enthusiastic and optimistic fighter for good and justice.
It gives a measure of our own mortality and fragility that such fighter is no longer with us. Young people must take heed of this event and understand that even if at times they feel immortal, life is a precious but delicate gift which must be nourished, for it can far too easily cease. We mourn our friend, our colleague and our compatriot, knowing well that the vacuum he leaves behind will be hard to fill.