Eastern Cape mourns the passing of much-loved Bongani Gxilishe

Caleb Tayi
Bongani Gxilishe, the head of department of Gauteng Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

Bongani Gxilishe, the head of department of Gauteng cooperative governance and traditional affairs, has died due to Covid-19 related complications.

The family confirmed his death in a message circulated on WhatsApp on Friday afternoon.

It read, “Dear family, friends, colleagues and comrades, it is with great sadness that we have to inform you that one of Africa’s finest and most loved leaders, Bongani Gxilishe, succumbed to Covid-19 complication this afternoon,” read the family message.

The family said more details relating to the prayer, memorial, and funeral services would be communicated later.

“The family appreciates all the support, messages, and prayers during Bongani’s illness. We know that so many of his friends, family, colleagues, and comrades would like to visit his home, but due to the current Covid regulations and out of concern for the health of the family, we humbly request that there are no visits to the Johannesburg family home during this time.”

Born in the small town of Cala in the Eastern Cape on the 30 September 1965 Gxilishe was the ANC Eastern Cape’s first provincial secretary after the unbanning of political parties by the apartheid government. His best friend of more than 30 years, Lincoln Mali, described him as a selfless, ethical and humble leader.

“For me, he was the best example of a public servant, an activist, community leader, family man, and dear friend; if young people were to look up for a role model, he was that person.

He was professional, conscientious, ethical, humble, and treated everybody with dignity. He was approachable and loved by young and old that is why many were saddened to hear about his passing,” said Mali.

In a statement, the ANC said, “Gxilishe’s death has robbed us of a cadre whose conduct and actions always epitomized the true characteristics of a selfless freedom fighter. Our hero has fallen, and it is now up to us to pick up the spear and forge ahead in fulfilling the dream of creating a better life for all the people of South Africa, the vision that Bongani Gxilishe dedicated his life to making it a reality”.

“As you arise to take your seat amongst the galaxy of our heroes and heroines such as Shey Kulati, Ncediso Captain, Mike Kwenaite, Bicks Ndoni, Killer Gxavu, Dumisani Mafu, Noninzi Luzipo, Mawabo Dyubele, Heavy Koliti, Duma Nxarane, Tando Nyati, Siseko Lutywantsi, Vo Tyibilika, Xola Lengs, Vuyani Vena, Andile Yawa, Madoda Luse, Malibongwe Yokwe raise your black, green and gold flag” it reads the statement.

“The loss and despair we all feel are beyond words. Even those words we can muster will forever remain inadequate when we try to match them against the life of this illustrious friend, father, husband, public servant, and comrade”, said Mali.

Gxilishe spent his young years in the struggle for the liberation of our country from apartheid oppression. He led student movements, Azanian Students Organisation (AZASO), and South African National Student Congress (SANSCO) while a student at Rhodes University. When political organizations were unbanned in 1990, he led in the structures of the ANC and the ANC Youth League in Port Elizabeth. He was elected the first ANC Provincial Secretary after the realignment of different regions in the Eastern Cape Province. 

He was appointed Deputy CEO of the Western District Council, now known as Sarah Baartman District Municipality. His skills and expertise were affirmed when the Department of Correctional Services appointed him in 2003 as Western Cape Regional Commissioner. In 2005 he was appointed as Deputy Director General(DDG) of the Department of Public Works. Gxilishe was the Head of Department (HOD) for Roads and Public Works in the Eastern Cape from April 2010 until the end of his tenure in March 2013. 

He also worked as the interim Director-General of the Eastern Cape Provincial Government in November 2010 until the position was filled.

In May 2013, Gxilishe was again appointed as Head of Department (HOD) of the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT). At the time of his passing, he was the Head of Department (HOD) Gauteng Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). 

The Anc said of Gxilishe, “we all know that Gxilishe discharged his obligations in this regard with the great determination, skill, courage, boldness, discipline, and enthusiasm with which he engaged the overall historical project of the fundamental transformation of our country.

“This is a moment of great pain and grief for the Gxilishe and Mdodana families . It is also a moment of intense grief and sadness for all of us in our glorious movement, the African National Congress”.

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