Tribute by the Chief Whip of the ANC, Dr. Mathole Motshekga, at the funeral of the late Chairperson of the ANC Parliamentary Caucus, Mme Alina Rantsolase, In Vereeniging

13 November 2010

We are gathered here to pay tribute to a beloved daughter of our liberation movement, a fierce and resolute warrior of the working class, a passionate women`s rights activist and a champion for the poor and the marginalised. We are here to celebrate a life well-lived, the struggle well-fought, and the selfless service well-undertaken. We are here to honour a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a friend, a colleague, a noble servant, a comrade and a revolutionary.

The work of a revolutionary is never done, and the story of the life of comrade Alina Rantsolase bears testimony to this fact. Having spent 31 years at the coalface of the struggle for the rights of the workers and fighting for the liberation of our people, comrade Alina could have elected to retire in order to relax and spend time with her family, particularly her lovely daughter and three beautiful grandchildren. But she opted to take her selfless service to the people to the next level, making herself available for deployment as ANC Member of Parliament last year.

Her talent, skills and experience accumulated through many years of leading the trade union movement and youth activism, became invaluable to the African National Congress in Parliament.

It is for this reason that she was immediately deployed to the role of the Chairperson of our Parliamentary Caucus - thereby becoming the 11th Caucus Chairperson since 1994. Other stalwarts of our movement who have held this important position are comrades Mendi Msimang (between 1994 and1995), Baleka Mbete (between 1995 and 1996), Thabang Makwetla (between 1995-2001), Nathi Nhleko (between 2001 and 2002), the late Joyce Kgoadi (between 2002 and 2004), Vytjie Mentor (between 2004 and 2008), the late Ncumisa Kondlo (in 2008), Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge (in 2008), and Nomaindia Mfeketo (in 2009).

This list of former chairpersons is itself an illustration of the type of leaders the ANC has always chosen for the important position of the Chairperson of the ANC Parliamentary Caucus. It has always selected leaders of the highest standards, impeccable character and unmatched talent. Comrade Alina was indeed in that league.

Comrade Alina was an embodiment of the revolutionary alliance. She served in the highest structures of the African National Congress, as leader in parliament and member of the Gauteng PEC, as National Treasurer for both Cosatu and SACCAWU and as civic movement activist.

Having served the union movement for a period of 31 years, you could not separate Comrade Alina from the struggles of the working class even if you tried. She breathed, ate and slept workers` issues. It is for this reason that when she came to Parliament in Cape Town, we had no choice but to place her in the labour portfolio committee, which she later led as one of the Parliamentary Whips. A talented and brilliant negotiator, she formed a great team of labour committee members who ensure that, despite the emotionally charged discussions on labour brokering, all parties came together and expressed their feelings without strangling each other. Despite her strong views on the practice of labour brokering, she still afforded all sectors, including those responsible for this practice, equal opportunity to present their views. She was patient with those she disagreed with and always used arguments of superior quality to win over those who opposed with her.

But those of us who had a privilege of working closely with her also know that she can be stubborn. As part of the leadership collective in the Office of the Chief Whip, we would never take any decision until we have satisfied her question, which was always: "How is this going to affect the workers?" She would never budge until the outcome of our discussion has properly addressed this important factor. At some point we felt that we had a Shopsteward rather than the Chairperson of the Caucus. She kept us on our toes, ensuring that regardless of the good intentions of our decisions, no corners we cut and no correct process were compromised.

Comrade Alina had a sharp mind on finance matters and had an exceptional gift of bringing simplicity to convoluted financial spreadsheets. When we came to Parliament in 2009 we inherited a Caucus that was gripped by challenging financial and administrative challenges, particularly as a consequence of the organisation returning with reduced majority. She led a committee that dealt with bringing the situation to order to ensure that the ANC in the institution is ready to meet the mandate bestowed upon it by the people. The complexities of Parliament were new to her, but that did not serve as a deterrent. She would work exceedingly long hours and had little sleep or rest. At some point I had to threaten her with a forced leave if she did not rest, which she simply laughed off.

As the Chair of Caucus, Comrade Alina presided over forthnigtly ANC Parliamentary Caucus meetings, attended by MPs from both the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces, as well as Minister and Deputy Ministers. She was a no-nonsense chairperson who ensured strict observance of meetings invitations by everyone without exception. She deepened the culture of accountability and transparency, particularly amongst our comrades in the Executive and heads of portfolio committees, to the Caucus. She was a mother figure and a reliable comrade who always forged unity and discipline amongst Caucus members. But she was also humerous and brought much desired entertainment to the otherwise tense and serious meetings.

She served with distinction and honour. She was energetic and never the one to shy from any challenge or difficult situation, and would never rest until a challenge is satisfactorily addressed.

This current term of parliament, which we have consciously declared an Activist Parliament, needs men and women of the calibre of Comrade Alina. She was an activist Members of Parliament who was accessible, in touch with the people, and understand their issues. She understood first and foremost that the reason she was in Parliament was to serve the people, to solve the conditions that are keeping them prisoners to underdevelopment, poverty and joblessness.

Comrade Alina was amongst disciplined and committed MPs who day after day play an instrumental role to ensure that the programmes of government do not begin and end on paper, but that their implementation is closely monitored, evaluated and assessed to ensure that they have a positive impact on the lives of our people. She was the organisation`s foot soldier who traversed every corner of this country, intervening where there were problems and being in sync with the mood and feeling of the people on the ground. She was very close to her constituency of Van der Bijl Park, which she served tireless to ensure that service delivery is speeded up.

She was the calibre of an activist which the ANC document, `Through the Eye of the Needle` defines an activist that strives to be in touch with the people all the time, listen to their views and learn from them". It says such an activist must be accessible and flexible; and not arrogate to himself or herself the status of being the source of all wisdom. One of the reasons Comrade Alina moulded herself into an indispensable and integral member of this organisation in Parliament within few months was that she was always eager to learn from others, and was always in touch with the people. She was a committed hard worker who despised laziness.

Comrade Alilna was also a unifier and detested divisions. She was adamant that women have a fundamental role to play in deepening the unity of the Alliance. Having served in many Alliance structures over the years, Comrade Alina understood the importance of the Alliance as the only vehicle for social transformation of South Africa. She often wondered whether it was indeed necessary for comrades to have a go at each other on public platforms, when they can address issues through available structures. A longstanding gender activist, she believed that women needed to play an active role in bringing together warring parties together. After all, she believed, women have always been the glue that holds together families in many households. In the history of our country, they have been at the forefront of our struggle while others have kept the fires burning when their partners and children were taken away by the struggle.

As we pay tribute and celebrate to the revolutionary life of Comrade Alina, we must today recommit ourselves that we shall jealously guard the unity of the Alliance by defeating the evils that undermine it. They are inimical to the Alliance` goals of bettering the material conditions of our people, and indeed Comrade Alina will rest peacefully knowing that something is being done about it..

In conclusion, I wish to say that I am certain that all of us will agree that it was indeed an honour to have worked closely with an individual of such inspiring humility and courageous spirit. She was one of the greatest assets to our ANC, the Alliance and the Activist Parliament, which we have all committed ourselves to.

God deploys servants of the calibre of Comrade Alina amongst us to perform specific revolutionary tasks. Now that she has accomplished those tasks with excellence, and has now earned herself a seat amongst the galaxy of our departed revolutionaries, we must - painful as it is - release her to go.

What is left for us is to pick up where she left off and continue with the battle for social transformation of our people. We would be failing her legacy if we did not take this task seriously.

On behalf of the ANC in Parliament, I wish to extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the daughter Puleng, her three grandchildren, her mother and brothers and sisters.