Today we begin to mourn the passing of a leader, a revolutionary, a patriot, a father, a fighter, an internationalist, a theoretician and an organizer. Indeed, it is the combination of all these qualities so splendidly in one individual, which made Comrade Simon Zukas the great African revolutionary that he was.
Men and women of rare qualities are few and hard to come by. And when they depart, the sense of loss is made the more profound and the more difficult to manage. Yet we do draw comfort, Comrade Simon: – from the knowledge that you left a legacy which we shall all strive to emulate; – from the knowledge, Comrade Simon, that you continue to live in each one of us through your force of example, vitality of spirit and passion for justice, fairness and humaneness.
Today, as the nation starts to mourn your death, we are at the same time starting to celebrate a life lived to the full; the richness of which touched the hearts of millions and made an indelible mark on the history of our country.One day when our people start enjoying a rising standard of living in a more just, fair and humane Zambia, they will be right to say, Comrade Simon was a chief architect who helped lay the foundation for a better life.
Comrade Simon was one of those who taught us that individuals do not make history. Yet, in each generation there are a few individuals who are endowed with the acumen and personal bearing which enable them to direct the course of events.
Comrade Simon, the first recipient of the Socialist Party’s highest honor – the Nsingu award, belonged in that category. In that sense he was a rare species, an institution. To reflect on Simon’s contribution is, therefore, to retrace the evolution of Zambian politics in the past six or seven decades. Such is the life we have started celebrating today: a life not so much of white generosity to the black people of our country; for Comrade Simon did not see himself as a white Zambian but as a Zambian. He was a full part of our people, his people, acting together with them for a more just, fair and humane order.
Comrade Simon lived the life not merely of a theoretician, confined to the boardroom and library. He was at all stages of struggle there at the forefront, generating ideas, and there too, in their implementation.
Comrade Simon was a full human being at heart. And he possessed the passion and natural intellect to see reality for what it was. He had, at an early age joined the Communist Party of South Africa. He had decided that in his life there was only one target, and that target was to remove the racist regime in South Africa and colonialism in Africa and obtain power for the people.
Those of us who had the honor to be closely associated with Comrade Simon, know that he lived true top the dedication he knew fully well that he would walk again and again through the valley of the shadow of death to reach the mountain-tops of his desires. I was fortunate to be close to him and to be with him in many struggles. With his wife, Cynthia, we would debate many issues.His sharp intellect and incisive mind would always light the way.
Comrade Simon was a well-rounded human being. Up to his last days, he lived life to the full. It is this passion for happiness in his life and the lives of others that we saw in his contribution to the campaigns of the working people and the poor. It is precisely because of his seminal contribution to the liberation struggle that Comrade Simon was loved by those struggling for freedom.
Though the defenders of apartheid and colonialism sought to obliterate his memory, the struggling people knew that he was an effective and skillful freedom fighter.The most central factor in his approach to struggle on any front was the understanding of the political situation, the balance of forces and thus the approaches necessary to advance that struggle. Thus he was able to appreciate changes in the objective conditions and initiate discussions on changes to the tactics to be applied.He knew when to compromise. Yet he never compromised his principles.
He was a revolutionary. Yet a revolutionary who knew how to plan, assess concrete situations and emerge with rational solutions to problems.The advocates of racial superiority could not understand how Comrade Simon could be part of the liberation struggle and operate under the leadership of the hapless inferiors they despised. But Comrade Simon took part in struggle as an equal, as part of the people.
The defenders of colonial exploitation and subjugation could not understand why Comrade Simon would seek to end the dominance of his racial kith and kin. But Comrade Simon’s kin was all humanity, especially the very poor. The champions of privilege and concentration of wealth could not fathom why Comrade Simon identified with the wretched of the earth. But Comrade Simon knew that these were the creators of wealth and they deserved their fair share.
Let it be said loud and clear today, that the qualities Comrade Simon demonstrated in abundance in the past few decades were the same attributes that spurred him to struggle, the qualities that drove him to join the Communist Party of South Africa, the independence struggle in Zambia and the qualities that he helped engender in these struggles.
We in the Socialist Party know intimately what vacuum Comrade Simon’s departure has left in our midst. We shall miss not only his incisiveness, experience and verve. We are conscious that it is given to a few to so ably combine theory and practice, as Comrade Simon demonstrated in our struggles.But we know too that he has left us a legacy which will continue to guide our approach. And that is to mobilize all the role-players in any area of work for joint efforts to build a better life for all. If we have taken liberty to claim Comrade Simon as ours today, this merely underlines that there are those to whom he was more than just a revolutionary and a friend.
We know, dear dear Comrade Cynthia and your family that you feel this pain more deeply. We cannot fully grasp the magnitude of your grief. Please be comforted by the fact that the nation shares your grief; and we shall always be at your side.Like you, our sorrow is made the more intense because we have lost not just one of our leaders; we have lost a veteran whose qualities are in many respects unequaled. He is irreplaceable.
Comrade Simon, if you see tears welling in our eyes, it is because we cannot bear saying:
Farewell dear comrade, dear brother, dear friend!