FUNERAL SERVICE FOR
ESHOWE : MAY 28, 2002
Today we gather to mourn the loss of a friend, a husband, a brother and a man of integrity. The life of Arnold B. Colenbrander projects its message beyond his time with us. The impact of the way he lived, the way he conducted himself and the depth of his capacity for love, remains with us even now as his spirit is departed. We will remember him in the best of many things. We will recall his commitment when we experience the best of the civil service. We will recall his compassion when we witness the best of humanitarian efforts. We will think of his endurance, his skill, his aptitude for problem-solving, his courage and his leadership whenever we see projects running smoothly, results being delivered and success achieved against the odds. Beyond this, seeing the best in marriages, we will remember Arnold and his beloved wife, Anne.
Today my condolences go to Anne and her family. As his wife, her loss has been greater than we could imagine. Perhaps of all of us who knew Mashanela, she enjoyed the very best of him. The sweetest moments, the deepest love, the most important words were no doubt shared just between the two of you. Our support is with you in this difficult time of grieving. May you draw comfort in knowing that Arnold Colenbrander was respected and loved, and that he will be missed by many whose lives he touched. His character had a tremendous impact on my own life. Indeed, looking back at the process by which many leaders and civil servants of our generation were prepared for a life in service, Mashanela's influence is outstanding as a teacher of commitment, hard work and ability.
He taught by example. We looked at his aptitude for leadership through service and his unfailing ability to get the job done, and we knew that here was something our people needed and something we ourselves needed to learn. As many of you know, Arnold Colenbrander began his service in 1970 in my office in Nongoma, when I became the head of the Zulu Territorial Authority. He later became Secretary of the Department of Justice. Coley, or Mashanela, as he was affectionately called by his friends and the Zulu people, was with me when together, from scratch, we established the Zulu Territorial Authority in Nongoma. History will remember that the concept of the Zulu Territorial Authority was foisted on us and I fought it wholeheartedly. Yet when it became clear that this structure would be imposed on us in spite of our opposition, I accepted the wisdom of my senior colleagues who urged me to serve in this structure as an avenue through which we could promote our struggle for liberation, and therefore I accepted to serve in it as its head.
The fact is, I walked into a new job which I was neither prepared for nor wanted. I was not where I wanted to be or doing what I wanted to do. However, people like the late Mr Colenbrander made my job possible and tolerable. Coley taught me a great deal about how to turn my new responsibility into an opportunity, to benefit our poverty-stricken people. Indeed, today I have the privilege of saying that that time in our lives was an enriching and rewarding experience. I feel certain I could not say that today had I been deprived then of individuals like Mashanela who inspired me, supported me and worked with me side by side through all kinds of difficulties. Coley himself enriched my experience immeasurably, often being the one to bring perspective on how much we could still achieve and how urgently our efforts were needed.
Together with many outstanding men and women whom we think of with fondness, many of whom join us today to weep for our brother, we served our people’s needs to the best of our ability. We used the Zulu Territorial Authority to serve and provide in spite of chronic under-funding. It is no secret that my defiance of apartheid ensured that our province remained terribly under-funded by the central government. On a pro capita basis we received infinitely less than any TBVC state or other self-governing territory. This was done to punish us for our defiance to play by the rules of apartheid. However, even with the little we had, we dedicated ourselves to use it for our people. Mashanela operated under these trying conditions. Yet, he never gave up. Even facing the same obstacles I faced, he supported me.
I have always felt the deepest admiration for our departed brother. He taught me the value of civil service and good administration. In whatever context the civil service finds itself operating, it can and must be beneficial and productive. My brother was himself the personification of these values. He was a man of absolute integrity and great ability. He knew how to be an excellent administrator and knew the importance of learning his job day in and day out. The twin pillars of integrity and ability carry the structure of the civil service. I believe that our young civil servants should learn from people like him who gave an example worth emulating. Even though today's circumstances are dramatically changed, we should not disregard the example of excellent individuals like Mashanela. They may have worked and lived under a different dispensation, yet the message they project through their life's work is the truth that any obstacles may be overcome with hard work, ability, integrity and good administration. South Africa needs to promote the notion of good administration as one of the pivotal values on which democracy and governance must be founded and pay tribute to those like Coley who have excelled in personifying such values.
It is sad but true that history is often unfair. It often remembers only the great warmongers, the great conquerors, the great destroyers, without taking into account the dedicated civil servants who make history possible as day in and day out they commit themselves to doing nothing but good. Mr Colenbrander left his indelible mark on the history of our province and, in so doing, on our country, and he shall forever be remembered. There are many people like him who have left an indelible mark on the history of South Africa through daily actions of good administration. Without them, the wheels of history could not spin. Between the watershed moments of history lie the expansive valleys in which people like Coley ensure that houses are built, security is maintained, basic human needs are met, skills are developed, capacity is grown, and life is generally better for more people, in more cases, more often.
I believe that Mr Colenbrander is one of history’s unsung heroes. Today, I salute him and pay him the tribute history, in its pursuit of watershed moments, has neglected to pay.
Coley was an unsung hero in many respects, not least in that in a deeply divided society he had the strength to defy conventional wisdom and political correctness and cross the racial divides. In spite of his background, he became a brother amongst the Zulus and he recognised the value of our culture. He recognised Zulu people as his brothers and sisters, defying the very foundation of the political philosophy of the day which saw us as lesser individuals who could only be guided, counselled and protected because we, by ourselves, could not take care of our needs. He brought a different attitude to his job and recognised that he was a civil servant to black political leaders who knew what they were doing even though they could benefit from his technical experience. Because of this, he gained for himself the Zulu name of Mashanela, meaning the sweeper because of his thoroughness in whatever he did, and was recognised by our communities as one who had been accepted as one of us, because he had accepted all of us as members of his own family. It is with people like him that the miracle of a reconciled South Africa really began.
The beautiful mace of the KwaZulu Natal Parliament is his creation. I remember how he discussed his idea of how it should be, and as we all know, he could do wonderful things with his hands if you just gave him a piece of wood. We know the beautiful furniture he produced. This was his hobby. What he described to me as the mace which would reflect Zulu culture was produced by him, and it remains one of the monuments to his memory. Future generations will all know that he created the mace for the Legislature of this Province. As we all know, it is a piece of art. As Shakespeare says, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.
I also remember his word of advice to me on one very trying occasion. Just before the ceremony to enthrone our present King, I went to Germany, and on my return I discovered that I was no longer a member of the committee which was responsible for the preparations for the King's installation. Pretoria had given advice to my kith and kin in the Royal family to ostracise me. I was naturally hurt and decided to recoil into my shell. It was Mashanela on that occasion who reminded me that no one could make me an 'outsider' as a member of the Zulu Royal House, and as a descendant of the Zulu Kings in my own right, in whose veins curses the blood of the King's ascendants. I will never forget that advice which he gave me during the crisis which the government of the day created in an effort to drive a wedge between me and the then future King.
I am able to speak with such passion about my brother because I know him to have been one of the few blessings I received under what were very taxing circumstances. While he provided me with support, assistance and a fine example of integrity, Coley was also an extremely amenable man who brought great joy to all those around him. I believe his love for life was really a tributary springing from the abundant source of love he found in his wife, Anne. Their marriage will remain an outstanding example of the blessings of the state of matrimony. Sharing a life dedicated to a purpose and a mission, with inexpressible love, they have shown us how to conduct married life as an all-encompassing and effective partnership.
I have been a beneficiary of that partnership. Both Coley and Anne were extremely supportive throughout our friendship. As Coley worked closely with me, his wife was a constant source of support to her husband. The strength she imparted to him affected us all and encouraged us in our own efforts. We all had to confront circumstances which were completely new and faced desperate needs with little resources. Needless to say, in that climate we often lost hope. Somehow, Anne always gave us the strength needed to overcome despair. Having raised our spirits just one small notch, she often found herself at the foundation of many of our successes. I recall how frequently she opened their home to us, entertaining us with great hospitality and warmth.
I feel that over the years Anne has become a mother to all of us. Today, in this sad moment, we rally around her, knowing that she needs our support, our comfort and love. May every kind word wash her grieving soul and ease the pain of loss we share. The tremendous love generated by the partnership of Anne and Coley cannot dwindle. It is spread among us and as we extend love to those around us, it still grows. The cup of the Arnold Colenbrander's love constantly overflowed to bless those around them. They poured their love into what they did for our people and for the poorest of the poor. They poured their love into their life’s mission to serve, to exhort, to uplift and encourage. May the strength of the partnership be sustained as each one who loved Coley comes alongside his wife and offers her a new support.
The integrity of our brother will be remembered. His example of leadership will be remembered. His strength of character will be remembered. His capacity for love will be remembered. In these things and so much more that make up the body of our remembrance, Arnold B. Colenbrander continues. I am grateful to have known and worked with him. He was a fine man, a brother and a friend. May he finally take the rest he so rightly deserves, and allow the message of his life to be enough to teach us still the value of integrity. May he rest in peace.