Skweyiya carved a niche for himself

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

While the late former Minister and High Commissioner Zola Skweyiya at first did not warm up to his appointment as Minister of Social Development, he found a niche for himself and worked towards the betterment of people’s lives.

“When he was appointed as Minister in 1999, he hated it,” said South Africa’s first head of the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Bulelani Ngcuka.

Speaking at government’s official memorial service to honour Dr Skweyiya on Wednesday, Ngcuka recalled his conversation with the late veteran shortly after he was appointed to the Social Development portfolio in President Thabo Mbeki’s Cabinet in 1999.

Ngcuka recalled how the conversation between the two of them centred on how the portfolio is traditionally thought to be that of women.

“And yet he found his niche,” said Ngcuka, who met Skweyiya in 1985 in London.

He recalled how the late Skweyiya was committed to eradicating poverty.

“He was committed to improving the lives of people,” he told those attending the memorial service at the Tshwane Events Centre.

Dr Skweyiya, who passed away on 11 April, is credited as being the champion of South Africa’s comprehensive social protection system. Under his leadership the Department of Social Development developed one of the world’s largest assistance programme.

Described at the memorial service as someone who loved children, his push saw the Child Support Grant extended up to the age of 18 as defined in South Africa’s Constitution.

He also established the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to administer and manage a singular national social assistance programme to cater for the poor and vulnerable in society.

Deputy President David Mabuza agreed with Ngcuka, saying Skweyiya’s concern for the poor was evident.

Deputy President Mabuza said Skweyiya brought hope to the destitute through the expansion of the country’s social security.

“He understood the plight of the poor,” said Deputy President Mabuza.

Skweyiya was also a High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a Special Official Funeral, Category 1, for Skweyiya and ordered that the National Flag be flown at half-mast at all flag stations countrywide and at South African Diplomatic Missions abroad until the evening of 21 April 2018 -- the day of the funeral.

President Ramaphosa will deliver the eulogy at the Special Official Funeral Service on Saturday, 21 April, at the CRC Church in Pretoria East. –

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