The Speech of the Minister of Sport and Recreation (SRSA), Mr. Fikile A Mbalula (MP), on the occasion of the Funeral Service of Mr. Thabang Johnny Lebese, Republic of South Africa, Gauteng Province, Orlando East, Soweto
2 Mar 2012Programme Director
The Lebese Family
SAFA President; Mr. Nemathandane
Orlando Pirates and PSL Chairman, Dr. I. Khoza
Chairman and owner of Kaizer Chiefs, Mr. K. Motaung
The leadership of our soccer fraternity
Fans and Supporters
Sports men and women
Ladies and Gentlemen
On the shiny, bright and beautiful day of the 22nd February 2012, bells rang loudly in the streets of the Republic of South Africa, signalling the fall of one of our own, Thabang ‘Chillies’ Lebese. The noise of these ringing bells rang excruciately louder and made unbearable noise in the streets of Soweto and the surrounding areas because it is here that the loss and pain have been felt so dearly. It is Soweto that gave birth to this son of the soil.
It is Soweto that groomed and nurtured this son of Africa. It is Soweto that offered an opportunity to this star of South Africa, Africa and the world. It is here in Soweto that Thabang cut his teeth, hurdled and finally became a strong man in the struggle to mould his football career and it is here where Thabang finally fell and found his resting place.
On this beautiful day in the Province of Gauteng became a dark day for the sport loving people of the Republic, especially the Lebese Family and Friends. We would like to take this opportunity to say ‘akwehlanga lungehlanga, kunje kuzo zonke iintlanga, lalani ngenxeba, kunje kuzozonke iizizwe, thuthuzelekani!”
Ladies and Gentlemen the passing-on of ‘Banda’ has shocked the nation especially the government of the Republic of South Africa. This young man has been a torch-bearer of the dreams of millions of young South Africans who are still aspiring to be the best in the pool of the best. Thabang has been a mirror of hope to thousands of football fanatics’ especially young people who wanted to emulate his style in the field of soccer in South Africa. His death did not only shock the democratic developmental state but have also broken through the inner-soul of our nation, South Africa.
In the mist of immense challenges faced by our sport system in general and football in particular to loose skilled soccer players and role models at the younger ages is a cause for concern. When we are still looking forward at tapping in the rich history of knowledge and experience, we loose our athletes like the blink of an eye or a surprise lightning.
As we are directing all our efforts towards thorough-going sport sports system we need brains in the caliber of this fellow to assist us as the democratic state to get through the millions of young people who are in schools and in our communities. We need people like Thabang to inspire South Africans to use sport and recreation as a tool that can take them out of poverty and unemployment and help us to deal decisively with the challenges of inequality.
Ladies and Gentlemen, on the 13th February 2012, we announced the establishment of the national Sport and Recreation Volunteer Corps as a vehicle to tap from the wisdom of the legends and veterans in sport and recreation as to assist the nation in the road to sport development, talent identification and a winning nation. In this Volunteer Corps Movement we wanted people like Thabang to contribute immensely and meaningfully towards the development of our sport system by helping government to roll-out a successful schools sport programme and system.
We feel betrayed by death, death that robs us of our valued personalities at the tender age especially when our country is looking for these energetic individuals to drive the process of transformation in sport. We need this energy because it is through an energetic youth in the country that drives change. It is through a fit and energetic young generation that big countries win wars.
It is with a strong body and mind that healthy nations defeat the scourge of disease, underdevelopment and ignorance. We really feel betrayed by death, death that always hit us hard when we are off-guard and unaware.
This makes me to remember vividly when I met my officials to relate the story of the fall of Thabang; I could see in their faces that they all shared the same unspoken emotions of shock, grief and disconcerting feeling of disorientation; perhaps asking themselves a single question that what shall we do? This I believe was the same feeling that most of South Africans went through after hearing the shocking news about Thabang.
Chillies, as Thabang Johnny Lebese was affectionately known, was a vanguard among his peers in both Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs who have been troublesome for any opposing team where he played and won respect among his both teammates and other teams. This skill, tenacity and agility as well as speed and technique are confirmed by his recruitment into Kaizer Chiefs at the tender age by only ‘playing two games with the reserve side and then being promoted to the first team.
Ladies and Gentlemen this opportunity only goes to those who show skill, dedication and perseverance in the art of conducting sport especially in football. Thabang was one of the finest soccer players South Africa has ever produced in the era of the 21st Century. His commitment to soccer was crystal clear when he accepted to play for Pirates without a signed contract.
This show the love of sport not of its wealth or a possibility to accumulate more wealth. However, we need to discourage our players to enter into any contract without a legal base or foundation. This has led to the majority of our players to be exploited and be left to fend for themselves when their careers are over.
Ladies and Gentlemen we must all guard against our players to continue to die as ‘paupers’. We have been lamenting about this; let us act now. Talk is over! Our people are dying penniless and other nations are laughing at us. We brag very much about our principles of Ubuntu but we do little to show that in practice. We are like a nation of hypocrites; people that say this and do the opposite.
We are like a nation of liars and a nation full of don’t cares. How can someone play for a wealthy club and die a pauper. What are these clubs doing for the welfare of their players after the end of their careers? Is someone worth today because of his sweats and blood and be useless tomorrow because of challenges of life? I am today calling on all clubs in the Republic of South Africa to open up schemes that will look at the welfare and wellbeing of all their former players including funeral schemes and pensions.
I am sick and tired of raising the same issue in every funeral of a black sportsperson. If you go to other sport codes or federations you don’t find this begging. Why our black people who have contributed immensely in sport especially soccer and boxing should die beggars? This situation is unacceptable!
Owing to his stature and the historical, ground breaking role which Mr. Lebese played in the life of the Football in the Republic of South Africa, the Ministry of Sport & Recreation directed that Thabang be sent off with the necessary respect, stature and decorum worthy of a national asset he has truly been in his short-lived life. For that reason, a funeral preparatory committee was formed to oversee the arrangements for his funeral comprising of representatives from Sport and Recreation South Africa, the Family and other strategic stakeholders.
We can’t continue to burry our sports men and women as if they did not contribute into the wellbeing of our society. Really something needs to be done.
As an example; in other nations when a soldier dies in a war situation and in the conduct of war on behalf of his/her country is bestowed an accolade of a warrior with benefits. Why our black sport warriors are to be laid to rest in a manner that does not befit their accolade.
I would like to call, as I did in many funerals of our sport men and women, on the democratic developmental state and private sector to provide all our national sport heroes and heroines, especially those who participated in our International Battles with national colours and benefit in the same way as our soldiers who defended the sovereignty of the Republic. We do this because we need to show the same care and passion towards those who made what we are today, South Africans.
Issued by: Sport and Recreation South Africa
2 Mar 2012
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