MEC Bongiwe Mbinqo Gigaba: Memorial Service of Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile

Remarks of the MEC for Sport , Arts and Culture Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo Gigaba on the occasion of the Memorial Service of Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile former Premier of the Eastern Cape and former National Minister of Sport and Recreation

Programme Director

I greet you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

We are gathered here today to mourn the death and celebrate the life of Reverend Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile. We offer our sympathy to the Stofile family.

It was with great sadness and a deep sense of loss that I learnt on Monday 15 August , Reverend Stofile is no more.

Today we have converged here to commemorate the death of an outstanding South African. We celebrate the life of a selfless cadre and revolutionist who fought tiresly for the liberation of Black South Africans.

The untimely passing of Reverend Stofile is not only a loss to his family, but is a grief shared by Government and our nation as a whole.

Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile was one of many great giants whose shoulders we stand and draw inspiration from. As a freedom fighter he was prepared to sacrifice his life fighting the injustices of apartheid. As a reverend, he gave hope and inspired many to remain rooted in the belief of a spiritual power bigger than them and that they are stronger when united.

As an administrator and policy maker he laid a solid foundation for previously disadvantaged South Africans to be given opportunities to address the imbalances of the past.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Rev. Dr Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile had a long and distinguished career and life in academics, universal institutions and politics both before the advent of democracy in South Africa, and thereafter.

Born in 1944 near Adelaide in the Eastern Cape, Stofile worked briefly as a factory worker before commencing his studies in 1971 at the University of Fort Hare, where he graduated with a BA, Bachelor in Theology (honours) and Masters in Theology up to 1979.

During this he was involved in pastoral work, and was ordained as a minister of the Presbytarian Church of South Africa. He then had a long and distinguished career as a university lecturer, later earning several post-graduate degrees in Germany, the United States, and finally, a PhD in Philosophy in 2000 from the University of Port Elizabeth.

A fitting crowning glory for his academic career was his appointment earlier this year as Chancellor of his alma mater, the University of Fort Hare.

Politically, Stofile became active in 1963 as a member of the African Students' Association. During the eighties his leadership abilities came to the fore when he served in the National Executive Committee of the United Democratic Front (UDF). He was imprisoned by the Bantustan government of Ciskei under its security laws, and released in 1989 after serving 3 years of an 11 year sentence.

After democracy he worked briefly at the University of Fort Hare before he joined Parliament in 1994. He served the ANC as chief whip and treasury general until 1997, when he became premier of the Eastern Cape.

In 2004 he left that position to once again enter Parliament, this time as Minister of Sport and Recreation. During his tenure one of his chief responsibilities and leadership roles was readying South Africa for the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In June 2011 he became as Ambassador to Germany, a post he held until December 2015.

The Reverend was a distinguished all rounder whose life was well lived in politics, religion, academia and sport. What many people did not know is that he was a staunch campaigner for non racial sport and believed that we cannot play normal sport in an abnormal society.

It was already at school and during his time at university that Stofile's love of sport, and in particular rugby, started to show. During this time he was the captain of the university rugby team, playing scrumhalf and wing. He played for Border in 1969 and 1970, and after his playing days were over, assumed a leadership role in sport administration in the Eastern Cape in especially rugby, but also in other sports.

His involvement in sport administration in a wide variety of sport organisations would continue for the next twenty years on local, national and international level.

Most notable was his involvement in the struggle-era, non-racial South African Council of Sport (SACOS), the formation of the National Sports Council (NSC), and the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU).

During this time in the struggle he was an active campaigner for non-racial sport, traveling to New Zealand in 1981 on behalf of the UDF to campaign successfully against a planned Springbok rugby tour - an activity that cost him jail time upon his return.

His service to South African sport was indispensible during his tenure as Minister of Sport from 2004 - 2010, during which time he served as Board Director of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee, and in 2013 he was elected as Vice President of the World Anti-Doping Agency, a position he held for three years.

It was also during his time as Minister that the controversy surrounding Caster Semenya started. Stofile was vociferous in his support for Semenya, promising 'third world war' over her then impending gender tests.

Unfortunately, Rev Stofile did not live one more week to witness the historic victory of Caster Semenya where she won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 800 metre finals .

He was a leader in his own right and distinguished himself as a pioneer in delivering community service. He demonstrated his leadership in many initiatives which other speakers before me have alluded to throughout our country and internationally.

One such initiative, for which we will remain eternally grateful, was his dedication to improve the well-being of sports people in South Africa.

The vision of the Department of Sport and Recreation is: "An Active and Winning Sport Nation". Reverend Stofile was an embodiment of that vision until his last day on this earth.

To realise this vision, he deemed it important to improve the development and transformation of our youth through sport. His untimely departure has robbed us of a selfless man who put the interests of his fellow human beings above his own.

We will sorely miss his energy and "never give-up" attitude in the sport sector.

With his untimely departure, it is left up to all of us, whether in government, civil society or the religious sector, to carry forward the cause which he so dearly championed.

It is up to us to ensure that all sports people are provided with equal opportunities and that we as government and private sector create these sporting opportunities whether it is for leisure or professional purposes. It is only through sport that we can combat the scourge of alcohol and drug abuse that is frying the brains of our youth.

Till his last breath, Rev Stofile remained , a unionist, a revolutionary, a fighter for the rights of all sport men and women; comrade Stofile was baptised in the dusty streets of Alice and in the revolutionary fires of our struggle for national liberation and social emancipation.

A great youth leader of his generation and a tireless soccer and rugby player and a fanatic till the end, bred among the brave young lions in the rugby circles of the Eastern Cape Province! He also contributed in the struggles of the youth of this Province.

Equal to the challenges of his time, he occupied the centre stage of our sport and recreation in the late sixties and to the late 2000s in response to the call by our democratic government to open all opportunities for participation in sport and recreation at all levels of participation.

Comrades and friends,

We came here today to celebrate Rev Stofile's fulfilling journey of life. As you have heard from many speakers, there are many reasons to celebrate his life.

We are profoundly glad that Rev Stofile lived amongst us. We cherish the memory of his deeds and character. Let us honour the life of Rev Stofile by following in his footsteps and share in the life of our communities.

Let us take his spear and go forward; he has completed his race with flying colours. The world remains with us now!

May his soul rest in peace!


Source: Government of South Africa