Message of condolence by Deputy Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr. Ebrahim Ebrahim, at the funeral service of
Mr. Walter Ernst Shafers
The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Directors General and Senior Government Officials;
Colleagues and Friends
On behalf of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, I wish to extend our collective sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Shafer’s family and friends of the “Ambassador of Peace” – Walter Shafer. In one of her many inspiring sayings, Mother Teresa commented that “I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much”. As we pause and reflect on the life of this extraordinary, yet so simple a man, we wonder how his family, which includes his entire staff at Burghers Park Hotel and the many friends he made out of every guest he had a chance to interact with, will cope. But as Mother Teresa says, God would not have brought you this situation to handle, if He knew you would not be able to handle.
In our interactions with Walter as Government, we came to know a man who was motivated by a very simple philosophy of life – which was all about “Peace”. In this regard, it is not surprising that we then got to know from the man that his acquisition of the hotel was for all intends and purposes intended, amongst others, to provide shelter and space “for those who had differences to resolve”. This Ambassador of Peace”, who was friends with ordinary folk, politicians and businessmen alike, did not openly favour a particular political viewpoint over the other. He just hated strife and disharmony.
Walter had a sense of humour. He was an extremely generous man, with an un-assuming personality. He shied away from being publicly acknowledged. In this regard we are reminded of his generosity when as a Department we had to find shelter and space for our then politically and socio-economically troubled brothers and sisters from Burundi, Sudan, the DRC and many more. This humble and un-assuming man, who was not motivated by the desire to pile up money in a cupboard or the glare of the media, and disliked being noted, opened up his heart and our own African folk could be accommodated and provided with space to frankly talk through their differences. Today we talk of peace in the DRC and Burundi, including the inescapable route towards peace in the Sudan. In the context of this selflessness and display of Ubuntu, Walter befits the saying by renowned physicist Albert Einstein, when he commented that “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life”.
As we walk through the life of Walter together today, we cannot deny the fact that he has left an empty void - as a friend to many, including his staff at the Burghers Park Hotel, as a father to four of his children, as a grandfather to three, and as a loving husband to Karla. In these trying times, our presence here seeks to attest to the truth that Walter was also one of our own, because we are beneficiaries of his inspiring life of selflessness, and of a desire to see peoples of the world live in peace and harmony. Impressed by his sincerity, his commitment to the realization of a peaceful co-existence and his burning energy to see peace prevail, we are here to salute him and to honour his life. Indeed, the world we live in is a poorer place at the loss of such a humane person. But we are grateful to have known him and to have spent time in the presence of one whose mission it was to further humanise all of us.
Programme Director, we have learned that Walter suffered a stroke at the end of this July, but as Walter was Walter, never really wanted to worry anybody, and took his stroke quite lightly. As it took its toll on his body, he lost functionality of his limbs and the degeneration worsened. But as we are told by his sons, Gregory and Derrick, Walter passed on peacefully, having made peace with all, including his God. Knowing that Walter was a man who lived his life to the fullest, exuding humour and laughter and lots of energy, one is tempted to quote the famous painter, Leonardo da Vinci when he said “As a well-spent day brings a happy sleep, so a life well lived brings a happy death”. We remain convinced that this amazing and exemplary personality lived a happy life - and so when his time to say goodbye to life came, he was happy to bid us goodbye.
To the family, Mrs Karla Shafer, his daughters Runa and Nini, his sons Gregor and Derrick, including all the three grand-children and one who is still on the way – we are with you in your time of need. You are in our prayers. Remember that a bend on the road is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn. We all know that “there are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go”. Let us let him go in peace.
May Walter’s soul rest in peace!