Speech by Honourable Dr Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services at the Memorial Service of Ambassador Sonwabo Eddie Funde on 28 May 2018 at DIRCO
The Minister of International Relations and Corporation, Honourable Ms Lindiwe Sisulu,
The German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Honourable Michelle Muntefering,
Honourable Deputy Minister Majola,
The Stalwarts and Veteran of our Liberation Movement
Leaders of the Information Communication and Telecommunications sector
Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Members of the Funde family and relatives
Ladies and Gentlemen
Comrades and Friends.
Today we gather here to pay a tribute to yet another national hero and stalwart of our liberation, comrade Ambassador Sonwabo Eddie Funde.
Ambassador Funde is from a generation that embodied the meaning of quintessential South African during the most difficult period in our history. In his youth, he refused for his background and the apartheid regime to dictate his future and ambitions. He left the country of his birth and went to exile. During this period, he became an engineer and rose to become Head of International Relations for the ANC Youth League and was later the chief representative of the ANC in Australasia and the Pacific.
After the unbanning of the ANC, Amb Funde returned home and was part of a team which looked at how other countries configured their public service. This team advised the ANC on how Ministers needed to relate to the administration.
Amb Funde was one of the pioneers of the post-apartheid information and communications technology policy and regulatory environment. He led and dedicated his life to strengthening institutions of government, democracy, and regulatory authorities. In the telecommunication sector, he became a tenacious transformation agent and a champion for oppressed and marginalized. He returned home only to witness a small number or a handful of Africans participating in the ICT sector. It was this gap that led to the formation of the African Telecommunication Forum (ATF) in 1993, with the main task of promoting and growing meaningful participation of the historically disadvantaged individuals in the ICT sector.
In 2001 the African Telecommunication Forum had achieved this task and open a new chapter by establishing the South African Communications Forum (SACF) to focus on the unity of the ICT sector. All this happened under the leadership of Bra Eddie as its first president – a position he held until deployed as South Africa’s ambassador to Germany.
Comrade Funde was part of the team that paved the way for South Africa to come out of apartheid isolation and ushered it to be part of important international bodies, such as International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Amb Funde’s foresight saw him work with Government in the development of the 1996 White Paper on Telecommunications Policy which resulted in the introduction of new players in the ICT sector and the formation of the SA Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA). He later led SATRA as its deputy chairperson. His sense of ubuntu and regional solidarity saw him being elected as the founding Chairperson of the Telecommunications Regulators of Southern Africa, which has since been renamed Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa (CRASA).
It is his quality leadership that saw him serving as Deputy Chairperson of the Presidential National Commission on Information Society and Development. It also saw him serving as the Chairperson of the SABC Board. Amb Funde was among the first board members of South African Domain Name Authority, .ZADNA.
Amb Funde was a lifelong fighter against apartheid. He dedicated most of his adult life to advance the cause for a just and equal society particularly through his sterling contribution to the development of the telecommunications and broadcasting industries. As a result, in 2016 the ICT industry recognized his enormous contribution to transformation and inclusivity of this growing industry by bestowing Ambassador Eddie Funde with an honour of the SACF Special Award.
In December 2017, Comrade Funde made valuable contributions at the progressive and transformative resolutions of the ANC Conference. His emphases that we must prioritise the implementation of the provisions of the 2016 ICT Policy White Paper that were re-affirmed by the conference. Amb Funde respected the processes of government and in my recent engagements with him, we resorted to direct contact in order to minimize State bureaucracy, which sometimes retards speedy implementation of our programme of fundamental and radical change to create an inclusive national information society and knowledge economy.
I am confident that last week Amb Funde was delighted ‘up there’, to hear His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa announce during the Presidency Budget Vote Debate: “Cabinet will soon be finalising policy on the allocation of high demand spectrum. This will enable the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services to issue a legal framework that will enable the regulator to license the spectrum. It will significantly expand access to broadband and other telecommunication services, encourage competition, lower the costs of communication and ensure sustainability".
Ambassador Funde had internalised the ‘Thuma Mina’ call by His Excellency President Ramaphosa to be volunteers to lend a hand in resolving the most pressing challenges that are confronting our people where they live. I am sure if President asked who should serve in the Presidential Fourth Industrial Commission, Amb Funde was deservedly going to be first to say THUMA MINA.
As the government and the entire ICT industry we would like to dip our revolutionary banner in honour of this great patriot, Amb Funde who leaves an indelible contribution to our liberation and prosperity. As a nation, we are grateful to the Funde family for sharing this visionary and life-long activist for transformation with us. Your loss is our loss. May you find solace in that his enormous contribution moved South Africa forward.
Long live the undying spirit of Amb Funde long live!
I thank you