Eulogy by Deputy Minister Ebrahim I. Ebrahim at the memorial service of the late Ambassador Leslie Gumbi, OR Tambo Building, Department of International Relations and Cooperation, 18 July 2012.
Director of Ceremonies,
Distinguished members of the Gumbi family,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
We are gathered here today to pay tribute and bid farewell to our dear friend, Ambassador Leslie Mbangambi Gumbi, one of the finest diplomats our country has produced. It was with great sadness that we learnt of the tragic and untimely passing of this well-loved colleague, who was highly respected in the diplomatic fraternity and in society at large.
The loss is not suffered only by his family, but the entire family of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, as well as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, where he served with distinction since the start of this year.
Ladies and gentlemen;
Many of us may recall the milestones in the diplomatic journey that Ambassador Gumbi travelled in the service of the government and people of South Africa. He made a deep mark in the Diplomatic fraternity, and much can be said about his Diplomatic acumen during his career, both as an activist and civil servant.
Ambassador Gumbi was one of the young activists who left the country for exile in the mid-70s in order to escape arrest for pursuing the objectives of a banned organization, the African National Congress (ANC). As we continue the year long celebrations of this centenary, let us pause and look back at his selfless contributions not only to this movement, but the entire populace of our country, especially the youth.
Ambassador Gumbi served our democratic government with passion, dedication and humility. He was also an astute negotiator and multilateralist, who served in a number of key multilateral posts, including as Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the United Nations Organizations in Vienna and South Africa’s Ambassador to Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia, as head the United Nations Political Desk, as Alternate Member on the Board of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA); member of the South African Council on the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction; member of the South African Nuclear Energy Policy Implementation Committee; and Department of International Relations and Cooperation Co-Chair to the Global Governance Committee of the South African inter-departmental International Cooperation, Trade and Security (ICTS) Cluster.
The life of Ambassador Gumbi was intertwined with the contribution to peace and development of the African continent and the word at large through his diplomatic activities in the UN system.
It is therefore not surprising that he was earmarked for a decoration with the Flame of Peace by the Association for the Furtherance of Peace, an Austrian NGO in 2007, and in 2010 with the Republic of Austria’s Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with a Sash.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ambassador Gumbi is described by his colleagues as someone who was a great mentor, disciplined and caring to his staff and their families, especially those that served under him as an Ambassador in Vienna, Austria. As a result of these qualities, his staff never let him down.
Ambassador Gumbi was a gentleman, a dedicated diplomat who used his expertise to make a difference in the lives of many, and to take forward the transformation of our country. He wholeheartedly embraced the values of passion, humility, Ubuntu and patriotism, embodying the best characteristics of South African diplomacy.
Therefore, as we endeavor to build an Africa premised on the values of unity, non-racialism, non-sexism, democracy and prosperity for all, Ambassador Gumbi’s legacy shall remain a guiding light on our responsibilities as individuals.
Ladies and gentlemen;
The life of this friend, compatriot and comrade that we celebrate today, the man who was occupied not only with fulfilling personal interests, but advancing the aspirations of the entire society, typified a South African we must all aspire to be.
While we all feel the pain and shock of his untimely and tragic demise, let us pause and find a solace from a poem by John Donne entitled “Death, be not proud”:
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee,
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For those whom thou …….. dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet ….thou kill me,
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery,
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why ………. thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die”
“Death be not Proud”
Please find comfort by the words eloquently shared with you in this poem that carries a powerful message of hope, trust and tenacity.
Ambassador Gumbi was one amongst many men who will not only be missed by his colleagues and friends, but his family deeply. He leaves behind his wife, and seven children. Pain shared is pain halved. We share the pain with you today and beyond.
On behalf of our Minister Nkoana Mashabane, who could not be here today because she is on an official visit abroad, our Department and our Government, we convey our deepest condolences to you all, especially Leslie’s family and friends.
May his soul rest in peace!
I thank you!