Secretary of Parliament Michael Coetzee was a courageous proponent of democracy, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said at his funeral on Saturday.
Coetzee, who died last Friday after a battle with cancer, was undeterred by the unjust punishment he received for pursuing the goals of the National Democratic Revolution, Ramaphosa said in a speech prepared for delivery in Cape Town.
“We know he was hung by his feet over the Van Staden’s River Bridge. We know he was tortured severely. We know he lost some of his closest comrades and friends – people like Matthew Goniwe – and we know of the many hours of solitary confinement.
“But Michael was not deterred. He was a courageous, dogged fighter with a determined spirit, driven by a deep commitment to his organisation, the African National Congress.”
Coetzee continued to build institutions that supported democracy through his work in the Gauteng legislature, national Parliament and the Pan African Parliament.
Coetzee found the rules of institutions such as Parliament liberating rather than confining, Ramaphosa said. “He believed that playing the game by rules that were defined to ensure transformation and yet respect the value of difference of viewpoints made for a strong democracy.”
He praised Coetzee as “the consummate public servant”.
“He has left a legacy of what a great public servant should be -dedicated, sincere, honest and committed to excellence and service.”
Ramaphosa said that Coetzee worked to his last day despite his illness, and that South Africa needed to commit to researching the causes of cancer.
“For all you have done, we say thank you, Michael. It’s been a life well lived and a life we have the honour to celebrate.
Coetzee died on June 13, following a battle with cancer. He joined Parliament in 2002 as its deputy secretary after being secretary of the Gauteng legislature for a number of years. Coetzee was appointed secretary of Parliament in 2012. – Sapa