Focus on Manto's achievements - Zuma

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pretoria - "It is unfortunate that our country has developed a culture of dwelling on the negative and turning a blind eye to achievements," This was President Jacob Zuma's lament at former health minister Manto-Tshabalala-Msimang's special official funeral in Pretoria.

Zuma on Tuesday said this was something the country needs to address in order not to undermine the country's progress and successes.

"Some of her fiercest critics cannot claim to have achieved even a quarter of what she has contributed to this country," he said.

Zuma said a lot of the work she did while wearing the health ministry's cap remains hidden as it was not controversial enough to make it into the media, adding that it is sad that some of her many achievements were not highlighted and recognized in her lifetime.

"Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang is amongst those selfless South Africans, who have experienced minimal joy in their lives, due to their decision not to surrender until this country and its people were free from racist oppression," President Zuma told mourners on Tuesday..

Zuma, who during the service sat between Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Tshabalala-Msimang's husband, Mendi Msimang, said the former health minister had sacrificed life's comforts for freedom, human dignity and equality as enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.

He described the 69-year-old who once chaired the National Assembly's health committee as an individual who has always been part of the tireless pursuit of meaningful change as well as the improvement of the quality of life for all.

"Today we are called upon not just to mourn her passing, but to celebrate a life that has unreservedly been dedicated to serving this country and its people," he said, adding that she had not only been a dedicated doctor but a servant of the people, gender activist and humanitarian.

The president then extended government's condolences to the ANC and the tripartite alliance, Parliament as well as her husband and family.

Parliamentary speaker Max Sisulu, daughter of late former ANC president Oliver Tambo Tselane, former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka and family friend Angie Motshekga and Thami Mseleku were among some of the people who came to pay their last respects.

Before the beginning of the ceremony at the Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pretoria members of the of the National Association of People With Aids (Napwa), could be seen singing outside the church as mourners walked past them.

The coffin arrived at the church draped in an African National Congress (ANC) flag, and once inside the church it was draped with the national flag while two separate national flags were besides it.

Police and members of the South African National Defence Force maintained a heavy presence around the church. Streets leading to the church were also closed to motorists for the duration of the ceremony.