|Address by President of the Republic, Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF and Patron-in-Chief of Military Veterans at the Funeral of Major General (retired) Mongameli Johnson Tshali, Thaba Tshwane
17 September 2011
The Tshali family,
Members of the NEC,
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Chief of the SANDF General Solly Shoke,
Officers, men and women of the South African National Defence Force,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen
On the 7th of September 2011, Major General (retired) Mongameli Johnson Tshali, also known as Lennox Lagu, sadly passed on.
He did so at a moment in our history when the need to fortify our democratic gains has become more urgent.
He was humble, unassuming, but firm and a seasoned commander and cadre of the Movement and people’s army, uMkhonto we Sizwe.
General Tshali had been one of the first to swell the ranks of uMkhonto we Sizwe and answered the clarion call when it was time to take up arms again the apartheid regime.
He served selflessly and tirelessly in all the assignments that he was given by our leadership, performing to the best of his abilities and leading quietly and in an unassuming fashion, as was his character.
When one came across him for the first time, they would not even have an idea what a calibre of person he was, until one started an engagement with him. He was full of depth and developed and guided many a cadre in the many posts and responsibilities that he was given.
Even as we returned to the country as part of the process to craft and eventually have a democratic dispensation, many in our midst remained oblivious to the cause that he had dedicated his entire life to: the realization and defense of a free, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa towards which he remained loyal until his death.
At a time in our history when the ANC leadership sought to advance into South Africa, and asked the question: “who shall we send”? He became one of the first to respond by saying, “HERE I STAND, SEND ME”!
Like the select men and women of our people, Major General (retired) Tshali was one of the first to join the ranks of Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 to become one of the brave commanders of the Luthuli detachment.
In 1967, he was amongst the first combatants that thrust through the enemy lines to what is now known as the Wankie campaign.
This first major effort at penetration was augmented by attempts to establish MK routes in the then Rhodesia ‘to serve MK combatants passing through’ that country to South Africa.
Commander Tshali survived, as did some of those who are here with us today.
As part of further operations en route to South Africa during that period, in early 1968 another joint MK/ZIPRA unit was deployed, giving rise to the Sipolilo campaign, the second round of armed confrontation with South African and Rhodesian forces.
At all times he was ready to be the first and last person to stand.
He was totally driven by loyalty to stand and champion the entire course.
Again Commander Tshali survived.
During the early to 1980s, General Tshali was amongst the commanders who played a significant role in the defence of the MK bases in Angola, but also in the counter offensive operations launched against Unita.
This was no different to the role he had played in the Wankie and Sipolilo campaigns almost twenty years earlier.
Again during this period General Tshali rose to the occasion and acquitted himself well in these military operations. He was later withdrawn from Angola and reassigned other missions in the Front-Line-States as part of the work of not only the ANC but also uMkhonto we Sizwe.
In the command structures of Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Major General (retired) Tshali was but second in command to the late Chris Hani at the time of the Wankie and Sipolilo campaigns. He also served in the high command of MK and the Revolutionary Council and was later deployed to Botswana to represent the Military Headquarters in that country.
He further served diligently in Mozambique as part of the regional command of MK, where he ultimately served as the Chief Representative of the African National Congress, effectively the Ambassador.
As a representative of the African National Congress, he decided that his life of sacrifice is worthless unless it is to the dedication of all our people.
That no person is indispensable for the triumph of victory, and that all must risk even death for the ultimate birth of a new democratic order. On threats and demand of the then regime, he was withdrawn from Mozambique, and I later took over from him.
With his graceful frame, he traversed through the lengths and breadths of Southern Africa as a torch-bearer in search of freedom.
Brave amongst the brave he was. Dedicated. Selfless. A true leader. Even when he is sliding into the thousand stars, we will still say: this is the freedom and democracy he fought for. It is the democracy we wish to defend, and the peace he fought for, is the peace we wish to uphold. We mourn the life of him who lived it full. Throughout his life, Tshali led for peace and trained those that passed through him to despise apartheid and fortify democracy. To defeat the racist order of apartheid and replace it with an order that will work.
To oppose policies those subject our people into inhuman social and economic conditions. To liberate all our people from oppressive conditions. Black and White! Major General Tshali became part of the collective which guided the integration and later the transformation of the South African National Defence Force which was born of this integration of all the forces. It would be amiss for us not to honour General Tshali with one of the highest honours our country can bestow on someone so deserving, for all the sacrifices that he has made and leadership, courage and valour that he has displayed.
He deserves honour and decoration for the sterling work that he carried out in many of the theatres of the armed struggle he was in, notably the Wankie and Sipolilo campaign and as part and parcel of the Luthuli Detachment, and in later years up to and including the formation and integration of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
There are very few who have displayed the capabilities that he did, whilst at the same time remaining humble and noble to our cause of freedom and this democracy which we now enjoy and need to consolidate. Let us bid a fond, patriotic and appreciative farewell to this son of the South African soil, who gave his all for South Africa and her people.
Comrades and friends, Ladies and gentlemen, Fellow mourners.
I thank you!