By ROD AMNER
Happy are those who reject the advice of evil people, who do not follow the example of sinners or join those who have no use for God. Instead, they find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord, and they study it day and night. They are like trees that grow beside a stream, that bear fruit at the right time, and whose leaves do not dry up. They succeed in everything they do.Psalm 1:1-6
Last week, Archbishop Nkosinathi Ngesi of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church of Southern Africa, and prominent member of the Makhanda Legends, quoted Psalm 1:1-3 as he led a moving tree-planting ceremony honouring the memory of Makana Parks Manager Jeff Budaza.
Budaza, known for his stance against corruption, was gunned down at the gate to his home in Extension 4 at 8 pm on Wednesday, 25 May. Just over five months later, on 9 November, Makana Parks senior supervisor Wandile Duruwe was shot and wounded outside his home in Nompomdo Street.
Ngesi said the Makhanda Legends, a group of anti-apartheid struggle veterans, appreciated that there were people who are “still remembering Jeff and his good works”.
“The people who used a gun to assassinate Jeff Budaza, and attempted to kill Parks Department senior supervisor Wandile Duruwe, will be found. Even if we find them down ten years down the line, we will find them.”
“Blood begets blood; violence begets violence. If people want to have some greater or higher post, they must go to school and study. People cannot get positions through the power of a gun,” Ngesi said.
“Jeff’s death should not be in vain. Hence, we are calling this tree a Jeff Budaza tree.”
Ngesi said Budaza had worked with Makhanda Legends to create “a big project in Makhana where about 5000 people would have been employed”.
“Jeff was the secretary of that project. We are starting that project again from scratch now we’re starting all over from scratch because of the people who pulled the trigger.
“If that person is inside Jeff’s family, we’ll find that person. If that person is here in the Parks Department, we will find that person. Whether that person is a comrade or not a comrade, we don’t care – we’ll find that person, and that person will be punished. We will lock that cell and throw the key into the sea.”
‘No show’ by the mayor and social services director
Ngesi said he was disappointed the mayor – who was “invited three weeks before the event” – did not attend. “The mayor said to me she was going for a goat ceremony. But she was lying. She was going to Port Alfred – the police told us this. Why did she lie?”
The Makana social services director Kelello Makgoka also failed to attend. “We invited him long ago, and he promised me that he would prepare everything. This Parks Department used to be a source of pride. But today is an eyesore because we have a director [Makgoka] who doesn’t care. You can tell the director that I said so.”
“Perhaps it’s about time that Makhanda Legends come here day and night to track them [Makana directors] because they’re earning big money. They make thousands for nothing. Look at our roads and water. They don’t care about Jeff. They don’t care about you [Parks Department workers]. That’s what it means. Because if you die, they will not even attend that funeral.
“We are led by people who do not have integrity – people who do not fear God. The struggle continues. It’s not white people. It’s black on black. Because black people are running these institutions. And we’re running them down. Somebody needs to tell them,” Ngesi said.
Makhanda Legends chairperson Sipho Albany said Budaza was a fighter who was “loved by everyone”.
“We don’t want to come here to scratch the wounds – they’re still fresh. It shocked you all; we know that. We’re going to find the killers. We have faith in our police. We have confidence that his killers will be found,” Albany said.
“This must not wear you [Parks Department workers] down. An injury to one is an injury to all. Jeff’s death was an injury to all of you.”
“We don’t want to paint everyone in the Municipality with one brush and say they’re useless. There are many, many hardworking people in the Municipality. But the problem is that when the ship does not have a captain. People need to be directed; they need guidance.
Tribute from a family representative
Budaza’s relative, Lennox ‘Sburi’ Xalabile, said he would not be surprised if there were many conspirators in Jeff’s death.
“Julius Ceasar was killed by someone close to him – Brutus.”
“A week before he died, he said, ‘Brother, I am not happy, not at peace, at work. This tree is going to haunt those who killed Jeff,” Xalabile said.
Tribute from a union representative
SA Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) shop steward Nonkosazana Sam said she was still a contract worker when Budaza was appointed Park’s manager.
She said there was a tradition before Budaza became head of the department where if permanent members’ overalls were old and tattered, they would be passed down to contract workers. “We were given old smelly boots and uniforms, and we would get foot calluses. But we had no choice because we needed jobs,” she said.
“Jeff was older than us, but he would come down to our level as equals and respect us. We brought forward our challenges to him. He was easily approachable, and we felt confident enough to raise our hands as casual workers because of the way Jeff addressed matters and made us feel like our views mattered. Before, when we raised issues as casuals, we were undermined and looked down upon.
“Jeff Budaza stated that there is no way that one man can take another man’s sweat and his rags and wear them and then expect that person to work with the same confidence and dignity as the one who left him his clothes. After that, we each got two new overalls and boots.
“We were allowed to form our own team and work independently, as he could see our potential.
“Jeff Budaza’s death hurt us because he died while trying to fix matters in this department. The internal conflicts affected us, but Jeff protected us. He built a wall between us and the management at City Hall, who today could not set their feet here. Let’s speak the truth – there was constant conflict, day in and day out, between Jeff and them. Maybe their guilty conscience doesn’t allow them to come and speak over someone they did not get along with.
“But even if we are not all believers, you can’t despise someone who is dead. You can fight someone while they’re alive, but once you hear they are dead, you forget the past and mourn – unless you have no conscience,” Sam said.