Mrs. Phila Ngidi and the children;
Siblings of the deceased, family, and relatives;
Friends and Compatriots;
“I fear the end of peace
And I wonder if
That is perhaps why
Our memories of struggle
Refuse to be erased,
Our memories of struggle
Refuse to die.”
I have borrowed these lines from a poem titled, “No Serenity Here” written by the late bra Willie Kgositsile.
Comrade Zibuse Comfort Ngidi has gone too soon as if our ancestors sought to shock us and remind us that our freedom is etched in the pain and written in blood of martyrs. With Comrade Ngidi lying here, indeed our memories of struggle must refuse to be erased.
With the fall of the big tree of o-Hlomuka, o-Bophela, o-Busane, we make a solemn vow never to forget where we come from; and never to spit on the graves of the illustrious protagonists of our heroic struggle for national liberation.
While we know that our lives are fragile and transitory, we are still shattered and devastated to know that the light of the bright star of Richmond has been dimmed and stolen forever from our eyes.
Our nation has been robbed of a man who personified fairness, justice, and freedom. He was our modern day Bhambatha, a fearless warrior of the despised and the downtrodden; and a shield of the toiling masses.
Mrs Phila Ngidi and family, we once again, convey our deepest sympathies for the loss of your pillar and anchor of the family. We pray that you may all heal and be strengthened in the fullness of time; and it is our hope, that your warm memories of Advocate Ngidi will console and comfort you.
May our Good Lord strengthen you all as we remember His promise in Psalms 34:18, where it is written that, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirits.”
As the African National Congress and Tripartite Alliance, we have lost a courageous revolutionary patriot who dedicated his life and skills to the vision of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, equal, and prosperous society.
His passing away has brought into sharp focus the painful reminder that we need to celebrate our heroes and heroines more; and use the examples of people like Adv. Ngidi while they are alive to inspire the younger generations to safeguard our hard won democratic gains.
Compatriots, many of our young people have come to know Cde Ngidi as an established lawyer and sharp legal eagle. They know him through some of his prominent cases and clients without much appreciation of the sacrifices that went through to reach the pinnacle of his success in a country that was hostile to black excellence. In Adv Ngidi, we find a personification of someone who pulled himself up by his bootstraps.
He built himself literally from the floor. After matric, he worked at Regina Carpets which was later merged with Van Dyke carpets in Pinetown. He cut his political teeth in the union movement as a member of the then National Union of Textile Workers union ( Nutwu). Owing to his commitment to worker struggles and his passion for worker issues, he was elected as a shop steward. He rose through the ranks of the union and finally became the regional secretary of the textile workers union.
It is Harry Gwala who reminds us that,
“with the African worker you can't separate trade unionism and political life. It’s just impossible. It’s not perhaps like the white worker who can work there at the factory floor, and then go to his home which is his castle. The African worker has no castle.”
And Cde Ngidi understood that workers’ struggle could not be divorced from political struggle at a community level. In Clermont, he became a leader of the Clermont Youth League. His strong belief on the relationship between the shop floor and community struggles led to him and others coming into loggerheads with those who believed in the economistic or workerist approach to workers struggle.
Cde Ngidi participated in the UDF struggles and worked closely with Archie Gumede who himself was a lawyer. He was inspired by Human Rights lawyers like the late Kwenza Mlaba, Griffith Mxenge, and Victoria Mxenge. He was also encouraged and supported to pursue law studies by Bheka Shezi, Linda Zama, and Deputy Chief Justice Zondo, among others.
In 1989, he enrolled for a law degree at the former University of Durban Westville. Cde Ngidi never took a respite from the struggle - he joined the then Sansco and served in it in various leadership capacities. On completion of his LLB at UDW, he received the Deans Discretionary Award for being the best final year LLB student.
Advocate Comfort Ngidi was an active member and served at various levels in Nadel ( Lawyers organization) and later the Black Lawyers Association where he championed the transformation of the judicial system. He was deeply concerned about the limited participation of black professionals in the unfolding transformation process and spearheaded the formation of various professional bodies aligned to the ANC like uBhaqa, Democratic Professionals, Progressive Professionals Network as well as the Progressive Professionals Forum.
We thank him for the many years he spent in the law faculty as a lecturer at the University of Zululand. It is here where he pursued the vision of producing black judges and transforming the South African judiciary.
Over the years, Advocate Ngidi has serviced big corporate clients, led various boards, and still pursued social activism. Our provincial government has benefited from both his legal and business expertise. He has provided training on PFMA, Labour Law, and Constitutional Law. The Province has also utilized him in mediation and arbitration matters. At the time of his passing, we had asked him to help us mediate in a long standing conflict involving local communities and traditional dispute of KwaMbuyazi in King Cetshwayo District.
We pay tribute to him for being an excellent professional. We pay tribute to him from being principled and for always serving his clients with distinction and care.
We must honour his memory by consistently upholding the rule of law especially when those alleged to be in conflict with the law happened to be our adversaries.
We must pick up his baton and ensure that black lawyers are supported, mentored, developed, and given good and well-paying assignments by the state.
In paying tribute to Cde Ngidi, former KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Cde Sbu Ndebele said:
“Comfort Ngidi, the late
The inappropriateness of it.
The suddenness of it.
You were never late in the transformation of UDW to be a truly nonracial centre of progressive thought.
You were never late when we defended democratic gains in KZN and created islands of peace as our strategic advance from Clermont to Richmond.
You were never late when you engaged as a revolutionary democrat in all issues confronting revolutionary democracy in our country…
Now a bad rumour is confirmed to be true
IT SAYS YOU ARE LATE
Such a legal mind!!!”
Compatriots, Cde Ngidi lives on in our hearts and in the lives of those he has touched. And to his political home, the ANC, may the passing away of Cde Ngidi bring us together and remind us that unity is our foundation and remains sacrosanct. May we emulate his revolutionary discipline and rally behind the elected leaders of the ANC. Cde Ngidi detested factions and infighting because he understood that the ANC is a fighting instrument of the impoverished people of South Africa, not just its leaders. As we think about a post-Covid world and our economic renaissance, the poor of our land need an effective ANC working side by side with its talented daughters and sons like our fallen patriot.
We will always remember him a democrat par excellence who worked with all ANC leaders to unite the movement and to advance the National Democratic Revolution.
We will miss his laughter, big heart, warm embrace, political maturity, and wisdom.
His passes at a time when ordinary South Africans are crying for the unity of their organization so that it can be capable to lead land transformation, deracialize the economy, and create employment.
Cde Ngidi spent his life building this organization and used his education and skills to pioneer transformation. May his memory galvanise the ANC and the people of our country to advance transformation in all avenues of our society.
Fellow mourners, our memories of struggle must refuse to be erased, must refuse to die. We must continue to free every inch of this beautiful land, and in that way, Comrade Ngidi and all our fallen stalwarts will be able to say the struggle was not in vain.
Lalani ngenxeba mndeni waka Ngidi.
Nawe Lala uphumule Dlokwe lendlovu, Jiji Mankononkono, Geza ngenhla abafokazana begeza ngezansi, Mguni omnyama wakithi kwelika Mthaniya.
I thank you!