KZNís new premier taking office

Tribute to Síbu Ndebele ...

Now that the people have spoken through the ballot box, it is time to pay tribute to the provinceís Transport Minister Mr Síbu Ndebele.

It is evident that Mr Ndebele has driven the countryís leading political party (ANC) to political victory in KwaZulu Natal after years of anticipation, speculation and confusion.

People are sighing with relief and there is a general sense of being "free at last" following the ANCís rightful take-over of the reigns of power in the province. The writing is on the wall: "Ten years of waiting for legitimate leadership to take the province forward have ended."

But this did not come easy. Mr Ndebele is no populist politician. He is a practical South African leader who earned his party the reputation of being truly sensitive and responsive to the needs of the people. This happened through sheer hard-work, sustained commitment as well as a meaningful and ongoing interaction with the people of this province.

But who is Síbu Ndebele? What is the background of this workaholic and outstanding leader whose name has become synonymous with economic empowerment, job-creation, fighting carnage on our roads, to mention but a few of the attributes of his term of office in the Department of Transport?

Mr Ndebele believes that just as transport was used as a weapon to divide the people of South Africa during the apartheid era, so should transport now be used as a tool to unify and uplift the people of KwaZulu-Natal.

His father was a Lutheran priest and in order to carry out the work of the church, the family moved frequently from one rural area to another during Mr Ndebeleís childhood. It was then that he came face to face with the harsh realities of scanty and often unavailable roads and bridges in the province. Hence he is passionate about constructing rural roads and bridges to provide access to deep rural communities.

Mr Ndebele was congratulated by former President Nelson Mandela for piloting the Asiphephe (Let us be Safe) programme which later became a national project in the form of Arrive Alive. His commitment to reducing the carnage on KwaZulu-Natal roads stems from the death of his 24-year-old son in a car crash in April 1994, just before he was sworn in as transport minister.

His fatherís influence continues to show itself in road safety programmes that are driven by religious groupings from various faiths, including Siyabakhumbula (We Remember them Ė the dead) and the inter-faith road safety awareness programme that has enjoyed the backing of performing artists, journalists, heads of various religious sects and the general public. 

His ability to use all arts and media disciplines to promote road safety awareness has been Mr Ndebele undisputed strength. He has worked with highly respected artists like Jabu Khanyile, Mbongeni Ngema, Phuzekhemisi, Mandoza, and many others who have produced musical CDs and performed in various venues Ė sharing the stage with the minister.

Another popular South African group, Ebony released a song called Siyabakhumbula (after Ndebeleís campaign) in which they sing about Mr Ndebeleís tragedy due to loss of his son, Nhlakanipho.

Mr Ndebele has an intense love for horses - which stems from his childhood. He enjoys playing tennis, loves watching soccer, and is most relaxed when driving on the open road listening to jazz music. However, with his extremely hectic schedule and constantly ringing cell phone, he seldom gets the opportunity to do any of these things. He also loves Indian food.

Mr Ndebele thrives on intellectual debate. This was one of the factors which distinguished him on Robben Island and earned him the name "Son of Man", a title he is still referred to by many veterans and activists of the liberation struggle.

His value in the ANC revolves around his comprehensive understanding of South African and international history, as well as the intimate knowledge of the ANC constitution, and his vision as a political scientist.

Síbu Ndebele was born in Shiyana, Rorkes Drift, near Dundee on 17 October 1948 and grew up at Makhasenini near Melmoth where he attended primary school. He attended secondary school at Entembeni Secondary and at Eshowe Teacher Training and High School during 1967 and 1968, where he completed standard ten.

After leaving school Síbu Ndebele worked at the archives of a Lutheran Church centre at Maphumulo. From 1970 - 1972 he studied Library Science at the University of Zululand and became active in the University Christian Movement and later with the South African Students Organisation. He was appointed Publications Director of SASO for the University of Zululand in 1972.

From 1973 to 1974 Síbu Ndebele worked as an assistant librarian at the University of the North in Pietersburg. He joined the ANC underground. From September 1974 to May 1976 he worked as Assistant Librarian at the University of Swaziland, and worked with South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, ANC Deputy President, Jacob Zuma and former Gauteng Premier Toykyo Sexwale to establish the ANC inside South Africa from Swaziland.

In May 1976 Mr Ndebele was arrested for ANC activities. In June 1977 he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment on Robben Island.

While in prison Mr Ndebele became prison librarian and was active in the institutional life of Robben Island. He also completed a UNISA BA degree in International Politics and African Politics between 1982 and 1983, and obtained a BA Honours degree with distinction in Development Administration and Politics in 1985.

In 1986 and 1987, Síbu Ndebele worked on a Masters dissertion on "Non-Collaboration and the Politics of Participation" which was near completion by the time he was released from prison in June 1987.

Upon his release Mr Ndebele turned down a Politics lecturing post which was offered to him by the University of South Africa. He worked as Research Fellow at the University of Natalís Department of Town and Regional Planning. He was involved in the Built Environment Support Group and worked particularly on the issue for Blacks. At this stage he was active in the UDF in Natal and was involved in the peace Process Forum from February 1989. In 1990, Síbu Ndebele was elected Regional Secretary of the ANC for Southern Natal, and kept the position unopposed until December 1996.

From 1991 to 1994 Mr Ndebele worked as Director of the Office of Residence Administration at the University of Durban - Westville. At the first provincial conference of the ANC, opened by President Mandela in early December 1994, he was elected to the Provincial Executive Committee and the Provincial Working Committee of the ANC.

At the ANCís 49th Congress held from 17-21 December 1994 in Bloemfontein Síbu Ndebele was elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC.

Mr Ndebele has traveled extensively in recent years, visiting Holland in 1989 to present a paper of the Agrarian Question in South Africa. The following year he participated in a congress marking "Thirty Years of African Independence" in Moscow.

In 1990 he attended a seminar on "Research by Africans in South Africa" in Harare and in 1992 he toured the USA, studying Regional and Local Government, Adult Education and Metropolitan Public Transport. Síbu Ndebele visited Germany and Sweden with former ANC Secretary Cyril Ramaphosa in 1992 to look at Party organisation and its relationship with Government.

Mr Ndebele has also written papers on various aspects of South African History and Politics.

With the installation of a democratic government in South Africa after the April 1994 elections Síbu Ndebele was appointed Minister of Transport for the united province in KwaZulu-Natal. KwaZulu-Natal is the biggest province in South Africa, with a population of eight and a half million people. It is the province which holds the key to peace in South Africa.

At the ANCís provincial conference in December 1996, Mr Ndebele was unanimously elected as Deputy Chairman of the party in KwaZulu-Natal. He was re-elected onto the ANCís National Executive Committee at the 50th National Conference in December 1997.

Mr Ndebele was elected chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal at the provincial conference in July 1998.

Mr Ndebele believes that just a transport was used as a weapon to divide the people of South Africa during the apartheid era, so must transport must be used as a tool to unify and uplift the people of KwaZulu-Natal.