By Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe
How does one define a life well lived? Most would point to the accomplishments of an individual or their impact on society. Others may well reflect on the personal attributes of the person or judge their achievements on the strength of the tributes that pour in.
Whatever standard is used, it is undeniable that a life well lived should leave behind a lasting legacy. The death of the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Collins Chabane, who was killed in a car accident, has robbed us of a hard-working and dedicated patriot.
At the time of his untimely death, Minister Chabane was en route from the funeral of Samuel Nxumalo at Magona village outside Malamulele in Limpopo. At the funeral he spoke of the dangers of long distance driving and fatal road accidents. Little did he know that his life and those of his protectors would be tragically taken through a road accident.
These two final acts in the life of Collins Chabane reflect the character of the man. He was a selfless leader who always put others first, and for whom duty to the nation and the people came first.
Like many others his story began in an unassuming manner. He was born in Xikundu Village in Limpopo on 15 April 1960. He attended Shingwedzi High School and in 1977 joined the African National Congress.
After school he registered for a BSc at Turfloop University, but in 1980 he went into exile and spent six years on Robben Island from 1984 to 1990.
He was imprisoned at the same time as fellow freedom fighters like Bheki Cele, Tokyo Sexwale, Kgalema Motlanthe and Mosiuoa Lekota - all key figures in national politics.
While in prison, Collins Chabane obtained his diploma in leadership and management from the Turfloop Graduate School of Leadership under the University of Limpopo. He also had a diploma in management from Esami in Arusha, Tanzania.
After his release from prison, Collins Chabane served as provincial secretary of the ANC in the then Northern Province (Limpopo) for eight years.
After the 1994 elections, he was elected to serve as a member of the first democratic Parliament and served on the constitutional affairs, defence and intelligence committees.
Three years later he was re-deployed to Limpopo Province and became MEC in Premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi's Office. In 1998 he was appointed MEC for the Department of Public Works and leader of government business in the Legislature. One of the highlights of his tenure in Public Works was the establishment of the Road Agency, which was the first institution of its kind to be established in South Africa.
In 2005 Minister Chabane was appointed as MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism. He embarked on an international awareness programme on economic opportunities in trade and investment in the tourism, mining and agribusiness sector.
In 2009, he was appointed Minister in the Presidency responsible for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet. After last May’s general elections, he became the Minister of Public Service and Administration. He was killed at the time when government was engaged in wage negotiations with public sector workers.
Throughout his long career in the public space, Collins Chabane always sought to unify and to provide solutions. He was motivated by an unending quest for excellence and driven to move South Africa forward. Wherever he served he was sure to leave a lasting legacy.
It is sometimes said that in death it is hard to separate the man from the myth. Most people knew Collins Chabane the dedicated and astute politician. Most know the unifier and steadfast civil servant.
However, these are but mere facets of the man. Away from the politics and the public service Collins Chabane was a devoted family man. He is survived by his wife Mavis and two children.
His love for all things musical was cultivated while on Robben Island. While in jail he learned music theory and how to play the harmonica. He shared his love of music with audiences around the country with his Marimba band Movement and recorded two CD’s.
Collins Chabane was never one to shy away from a challenge and used what influence he had to inspire, motivate and change lives. He was at home on the golf course. In 2009 the now annual Collins Chabane Golf Day was launched to raise funds for the Xakani Charity Trust Fund. Various charity organisations have benefited from this initiative.
On stage as a performer, Collins Chabane mesmerised traditional and indigenous music fans with his unique sound. He took the harmonica and mbira, instruments many ignore, and created tantalising sounds that many enjoyed. He shared stages with, among others, Thomas Mapfumo, Sello Galane and Don Laka.
He was truly an accomplished individual - in sporting terms he would be as an all-rounder. His death has robbed the nation of a sterling patriot who still had so much to offer. However, his legacy lives on in government, in his contribution to our political, sporting and cultural lives. He was a giant whose deeds will echo through time.
That his life and that of his two protectors, Sergeant Lesiba Sekele and Sergeant Lawrence Lentsoane, were cut short in a fatal accident on our roads should concern all of us. Far too many lives are lost on our roads. Too many promising legacies are cut short by reckless and negligent driving.
Let us use this tragedy as a rallying point to prevent further road crashes and preventable deaths. Change begins with you and I. Simple individual actions such as obeying the rules of the road, keeping to the speed limit and being courteous to other drivers will mushroom into millions of collective actions across the nation.
We dare not let Collins Chabane’s death be in vain. Together we can make our roads safer.