DECEMBER 8, 2001

In this sad hour I wish to join my voice with the many who are mourning the death of Joe Modise. The news of his untimely death reached me while I was abroad and I was saddened to think of the loss we have suffered as a nation. Former Minister of Defence and one of South Africa’s liberation heroes, Joe Modise, was among those on which the edifice of our new South Africa has been built. He gave a contribution of valour to our liberation struggle and performed a service of distinction during a critical stage of transition within our country. I feel this loss deeply, for he and I were very close and worked well together as colleagues in Cabinet for many years.

In my own heart, I will remember my colleague not only as a leader of our country’s liberation and a leader in the new South Africa, but also as a true gentlemen, one of the few who carry themselves with dignity and grace even under the greatest pressures of his office. Upon his shoulders rested a burden that never lightened. His struggle, like mine and like so many of ours, was the struggle for a better South Africa. When we achieved a measure of political liberation, the measure of genuine liberation for all our people remained as yet unfulfilled. Even today it lies unfulfilled. Yet with the contribution of great South Africans like Joe Modise, our dream may finally become a reality in years to come. We are building an inheritance for our future, when the memory of individual people will live on in the collective prosperity of our nation.

Our nation will remember Joe Modise as a hero and we will mourn his death as a tragic loss to us all. Our finest tribute to the life of this great man will be to press on with the struggle for a better country. It is lamentable that his untimely death prevented him from providing his leadership in the field of business, which he had chosen as his new challenge. I remain certain that also in this respect, his great qualities would have provided a valuable reference point for the economic transformation of South Africa. As we struggle slowly forward, we need men and women of vision who may give the required leadership to our journey. Joe Modise was one such man, commanding respect by his dignity and quiet strength.

I believe in the heart of man lies the desire to have one's life remembered even after death. In this way, we may transcend the boundaries of death which comes to all alike. However, there are few men and women of such distinction as to secure a place in the collective memory. Even those who are great in life are at times forgotten after their passing. It is only those who, in life, give a contribution towards a future they may never experience, who will have the honour of being remembered even by those who never knew them. Such is the contribution given by Joe Modise. It is my hope that his family, and all those who mourn his passing in this dark moment, will be comforted in the knowledge that Joe Modise will live on in the collective memory of a nation.

As our brother is laid to rest, I express my deepest condolences to his family. At this difficult and painful juncture in your lives, I pray that God may bring across your path those who, by their soft words and embrace, can be your strength. I am truly sorry for your loss. May our brother rest in peace.