Collins Chabane earned himself a reputation as a hard working and dedicated cabinet minister since he became part of president Jacob Zumaâ€™s administration in 2009.
He has been one of Zumaâ€™s trusted lieutenants for years and was the face of government during its biggest events of the year – such as the funeral of former president Nelson Mandela in 2013.
The public service and administration minister was killed in a car accident on Sunday morning just outside Polokwane in Limpopo.
Described by many as a down-to earth person, Chabane was one of the brains behind the reconfiguration of the cabinet structure under Zuma, which saw the introduction of new ministries such as Women, Monitoring and Evaluation and National Planning.
The National Planning Commission, which fell under the Planning Ministry produced the national development plan, which has since been adopted as government policy and was endorsed by the ANC at its Mangaung conference in 2012.
Chabane served as Monitoring and Evaluation Minister from 2009 to 2014. He was appointed Public Service and Administration Minister in 2014.
Chabane was instrumental in the development of the governmentâ€™s medium term strategic framework [MTSF] 2014-2019 – a comprehensive plan, which outlines the governmentâ€™s priorities in the next five years.
The MTSF priorities are in line with the National Development Plan and the ANC manifesto.
Big loss to ANC
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who worked closely with Chabane for over 25 years, said his passing was a big loss to the ANC, the government and the people of South Africa.
â€œIâ€™ve known him [Chabane] as a hard worker. He was very patient and cool. He never rushed into decisions. He did not get overwhelmed when doing his job. He is very analytical,â€ said Motsoaledi, who was one of the first people to arrive at the scene of the accident just outside Polokwane in Limpopo on Sunday.
Motsoaledi described the mood at the scene of the accident as sombre.
â€œWhen a young vibrant minister passes like that, what do you say? It is very painful,â€ said Motsoaledi, who served in the ANC provincial executive committee in Limpopo with Chabane in the early 1990s.
Motsoaledi was deputy provincial chairperson of the ANC in 1990, while Chabane served as the provincial secretary during the same year – the position he held until 1997 when he was elected ANC national executive committee member in Mahikeng.
â€œI remember the time we [Motsoaledi and Chabane] spent together, running through the length and breadth of Limpopo establishing ANC branches. There is no structure of the ANC that he [Chabane] does not know. He started from bottom up,â€ said Motsoaledi.
Former ANC provincial secretary Joe Maswanganyi said he would remember Chabane as a dedicated cadre of the liberation movement.
Chabane earned his respect
Former Polokwane Mayor Thabo Makhunyane who served with Chabane in the ANC provincial executive in the 1990s described Chabane as a highly respected leader of the ANC and the government.
â€œTo be respected today, you must have money, but he [Chabane] earned his respect over the years through his dedication to the struggle,â€ said Makhunyane.
A modest politician, Chabane is also credited with driving Limpopoâ€™s economic growth to 6.5% after he took over as economic affairs minister in 2005. Under his leadership, Limpopo managed to attract prominent investors in the mining, agriculture, tourism and agribusiness sectors, which resulted in the creation of job opportunities in the poverty-stricken province.
Eskomâ€™s R26-billion investment, which saw the power utility build its first power station since the 1980s near Lephalale in Limpopo, is but one of Chabaneâ€™s success stories in his tenure as economic affairs minister.
Born in the dusty village of Xikundu in Venda, Chabane joined the ANC underground at the early age of 17 and went into exile in May 1990.
In 1984, he was arrested and served six years on Robben Island for furthering the aims of a banned organisation. He joined ANC structures upon his release, serving the party in what was then the Northern Transvaal as provincial secretary. He was also a member of the ANCâ€™s provincial working committee, chair of its provincial disciplinary committee and political education group, and a member of the provincial constitutional committee.
After the 1994 elections, Chabane was elected to serve as an MP in the National Assembly, where he participated in the constitutional committee, joint committee on defence and intelligence, and the standing committees of finance and minerals and energy affairs.
In 1997 Chabane was sent back to Limpopo, where he was appointed an MEC in the office of the premier. A year later, he was named provincial minister of public works and leader of government business in the provincial legislature.
One of Chabaneâ€™s highlights as MEC for public works was the establishment of the Road Agency, the first institution of its kind in South Africa. Through this initiative, the provincial department managed to fast-track the upgrading of roads in the province. He also established Gundo Lashu, a labour-intensive road construction programme, which is seen as local model for the current national Expanded Public Works Programme.
Under Chabaneâ€™s leadership, the Limpopo public works department won an award for the best provincial department in 2001 from the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts, the auditor general and Absa Bank.
A former chancellor of Mbulaheni Rammano Training College in Venda, Chabane was elected on to the ANC NEC during the partyâ€™s watershed conference in Polokwane in 2007. Apart from membership of the NEC and NWC, Chabane also served as chairperson of the partyâ€™s constitutional affairs subcommittee. He was also in the ANCâ€™s national deployment committee and the economic transformation subcommittees.
A trained aircraft technician, Chabane taught himself to play jazz while imprisoned on Robben Island.
Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa has been appointed as the acting minister of public service and administration, the presidency said on Monday.