“Death has stolen from us our black jewel … and our dynamic, jovial and glittering star. Our star faded … we are left heart-broken and completely distraught,” Premier Zamani Saul said.
THE LATE Northern Cape MEC for Education, Ntsikelelo MacCollen Jack, was laid to rest in his Eastern Cape hometown of Graaff-Reinet on Sunday.
Although it was a disappointment to many that they could not attend the funeral service following Jack’s death on Wednesday, it came as a relief that the service was live streamed online.
The body was met by staff members and several friends at Jack’s place of residence in De Aar on Friday morning, as it was on its way to his final resting place in Graaff-Reinet.
Only a few people could attend the funeral as the list of attendees had to be limited to 50 people.
Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul, Northern Cape Police Commissioner Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Shivuri and members of the provincial executive council were among those who attended the service.
The Northern Cape MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Nontobeko Vilakazi, and the MEC for Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta), Bentley Vass, were the programme directors.
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, ANC PEC and REC members, faith-based leaders and branch leadership, including from the alliance partners, attended the service that was chaired by Vilakazi and Vass.
The service was broadcast live, but was interrupted due to network connection issues.
Delivering the eulogy, Saul said that the ANC and the Northern Cape provincial government were now poorer as they had been robbed of an extraordinarily political talent.
“Death has stolen from us our black jewel … and our dynamic, jovial and glittering star. Our star faded … we are left heart-broken and completely distraught,” said Saul.
Saul said that he and Jack had “met as mere acquaintances, became loyal comrades, became close friends, became confidants and brothers. They met in De Aar in 1997 while Saul was still a young candidate attorney.
“Comrade Jack had just got appointed as a deputy director of the Department of Housing and Local Government. I was always wearing Sasco T-shirts and that made him curious about me.”
“So, one day as I was returning from work, I saw him sitting on a bench in the foyer of the guest house and he called me and asked whether with these Sasco T-shirts am I a student in De Aar. I then told him what I was doing in De Aar and he informed me that he just got appointed as deputy director at the Department of Housing and Local Government. He then sent me to town to buy him some fruit. From there we developed a relationship, and he started waking me up every morning.”
Saul shared with the mourners how he and Jack had grown within the Northern Cape ANC branches following the renewal of their membership and that they shared a flat.
Saul lauded Jack for being the man behind his current position of ANC provincial chairperson.
“He was at the pinnacle of these campaigns and risked everything and when I thanked him for these sacrifices he would always say ‘ziyabotshwa noba zibhityile Mthembu, I fight like this because I trust you’, and when things are tough he always invoked his favourite cliché ‘Indoda ayikhali’.
“Comrade Jack’s growth and rise in the structures of the ANC was not parachuted. It was an organic growth meshed with substance.
“He spent many years involved in student politics, ANC branch activities and served in various capacities in Sadtu. Later on, he served as an REC additional member, deputy regional secretary, regional secretary and regional chairperson, taking over the baton from comrade Mxolisi Sokatsha.”
Saul also lauded Jack for his role at the forefront of the campaign to get him elected to the ANC PEC in 1998.
“He led the campaign for my election as the deputy provincial secretary, the provincial secretary and in the last conference as a provincial chairperson of the ANC.”
He said Jack was a fighter with a loving and big heart.
“He was never malicious or sought self-glory and self-adulation.
“Because of the trust he had in me, we became each other’s confidants.
“Jack is sleeping in his casket today with a ton of my secrets stretching over 23 years, I have never picked up issues I confidentially raised with him in the volatility of the streets in the Northern Cape or anywhere in the country,” elaborated Saul.
He continued to refer to Jack as more than a comrade and a confidant, but a brother who loved his family with a deep sense of affection.
“This is because comrade Jack was not a double-dipper, he was not a hypocrite that awaits to devour you at the first available opportunity. He was a master craftsman, honest and genuine in his engagement with politics. He was forthright and a robust engager,” said Saul.
“He loved his wife dearly, had deep and enduring love for all his children – whom he would relate to me about each one of them, their progress in life and disappointments.
“One of the prominent attributes of comrade Jack is that he was a hard-worker and not a victim of cheap money derived through corruption.
“He was the deputy director for Department of Local Government and Housing in Pixley ka Seme District and that became one of the best performing districts in the Province. He later became the municipal manager of Pixley ka Seme District Municipality and received awards as one of the best performing municipalities in the Province. He became the MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, then MEC for Health, MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism and now MEC for Education. His deployment to these different portfolios brought about visible changes in their performance. In less than a year in the Department of Education there were massive improvements in the Grade 12 results.”
Saul said Jack was not a paper-pusher and a cheque collector but a diligent MEC who critically engaged with issues.
“This irritated many public servants and almost in each department where he got deployed he would conduct an investigation to unearth corruption and would always say ‘mthembu mayingatyiwa imali karhulumente kungasetyenzwa’.”
Saul went on to touch on the issue of the countrywide looting of Covid-19 PPE funds.
“The procurement of medical equipments and supplies has evoked some German Nazi looting spirit amongst us. When you engage on the historical account on the causes for defeat of German Nazi by the allied Forces in 1944, historians identify many causes and one of them is the levels of corruption, plunder and looting of the public purse by Nazi generals,” said Saul.
“Corruption in Hitler’s reign was an important element in securing the grip on power and had been a structural and propping element of the Nazi regime, its politics, and its polycratic structures.”
Saul said that activism was needed against corruption … in honour of Jack.
“We must commit ourselves to fight and root out corruption in all its manifestations.
“Corruption poses an existential challenge to our organisation and it’s the biggest inhibiting factor to development. We must ensure that corruption does not become a structural and propping element in our politics as it did with the Nazis.
“Jack wanted to see unity prevailing in the Northern Cape Province. He never had uncontrolled political ambitions, his ambitions were calibrated, and his moves were informed by the imperative and need to build unity in the Northern Cape.
“It is precisely this attitude that made it possible for him and his collective to build the Pixley ka Seme region into one of the most united regions of the ANC, not only in the Province but in the country.”