Patrick Magebhula Hunsley, founding member and stalwart of the South African Alliance and Shack Dwellers International (SDI), was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Human Settlements on behalf of the Department of Human Settlements on Thursday 14 August 2014 at the annual Govan Mbeki Human Settlements Awards ceremony held in Johannesburg.
This prestigious award ceremony (established in 2006) aims “to promote and inculcate a culture of excellence within the human settlement sector in the delivery of quality human settlements and dignity to South Africans” (Reference). The awards acknowledge excellent achievements on a Provincial and National level, in order to showcase and demonstrate the work done by the department at both tiers and to promote best practices in meeting the delivery mandate of the Presidency’s Outcome 8, which is aligned with the vision of building sustainable human settlements and meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
This year, however, the minister included an additional category of awards – the Lifetime Achievement Award – that was given to only two people in honour of excellent and noteworthy contributions. When attending Patrick’s funeral in Durban on 16 August at the KwaMashu Christian Centre in Durban, the minister shared
“For the first time this year, we honoured people with outstanding qualities and recognized them as life time achievers in this area. Of all the people who have been active in this field we chose two people. The first was Joe Slovo, the first minister of housing and the second was Patrick Magebhula”.
The Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) has had a long-standing relationship with government. In the lead up to the 1994 elections, the federation of women’s savings collectives lobbied for an alternative approach to housing that focused on people-centred and controlled development – this model was appropriated by government in 1998 in the form of the People’s Housing Process (PHP). Read more here. Patrick was instrumental in these processes, negotiating with government and ‘un-blocking’ strategic regions in the country. In 2006 FEDUP secured a long term ‘subsidy pledge’ with the department of human settlements which was signed by FEDUP, uTshani Fund and then national minister of housing, Lindiwe Sisulu for 1000 housing subsidies per province in South Africa. In 2010 Patrick served as special advisor to then minister of human settlements, Tokyo Sexwale, on human settlements policy and practice. In 2011 Patrick was asked to serve on a Ministerial Task Team on Water and Sanitation, headed by Ms. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, tasked with addressing the issues of open-air, incomplete and dilapidated toilets in poor communities across South Africa.
Having worked together closely with Patrick, current Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, recognised him at the award ceremony as
“an outstanding, humble man who helped us shape our policies and understand how people who live in slum conditions are not victims, that they have the power, together with our support, to take themselves out of their poverty. His name is Patrick Magebhula and he passed away on Monday 4 August 2014. It is a sad loss for us. We will bury him on Saturday with all the dignity that he deserves. Today we honour him as an internationally recognised champion and pioneer of the empowerment of the poor and acknowledge his outstanding contribution. We and his broader family of the Federation of the Urban Poor and SDI will have to double our collective effort to further his work to ensure that his life passion was not in vain.” (Reference)
At Patrick’s funeral, which was attended by family, hundreds of fellow activists, friends and comrades the minister remembered how she and Patrick had first met in Barcelona (Cape Town) when she was a new minister together with FEDUP and Rose. As she got up to speak at one of the occasions she explained that Patrick had humorously asked her to explain who she was, who had sent her, who she was representing and what her promise would be to the Federation. After the minister had shared this anecdote, she pledged R 10 000 000 in housing subsidies to FEDUP. Kwa Mashu’s church – packed to the brim – erupted in song, cheers and ululations.
“My only regret is that Patrick is not here today to hear me but I want him to know that the promise I made to him, today, I kept in his honour. The federation will not be in want while I am around, the federation will not want for anything while the DG, the deputy minister and the department is there. The partnership we have will live in honour of this man whose humility is amazing. As the Department of Human Settlements we count ourselves as the broader family of Patrick.”
She also honoured the work of Shack Dwellers International (SDI) and its nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, which South Africa has decided to second.
“We as South Africa have pledged to second SDI’s nomination and lobby all African countries who are part of us to second the nomination so that we can celebrate with Patrick should we win the peace prize”.
The Minister then led the gathering in the song: “Lihambile iQhawe”, a famous freedom song that was also sung as Mandela was buried in December last year. The refrain goes: “Lihambile iQhawe lamaQhawa” – The Bravest of the Brave has departed.