Cyril Ramaphosa unites with Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe for Billy Modise funeral

28 June 2018 - 11:44 By Timeslive
Funeral service for Billy Modise.
Funeral service for Billy Modise.
Image: Alon Skuy

Three South African presidents on Thursday attended the funeral of diplomat Billy Modise‚ who died at the age of 87 after a long illness.

Current president Cyril Ramaphosa‚ who declared a special official funeral for the former chief of state protocol‚ ambassador and ANC veteran‚ led the service at Marks Park sports field‚ across from West Park Cemetery‚ in Johannesburg. Also present were former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe.

Modise‚ who died on June 20‚ had a long association with the Mbeki family. While studying at Fort Hare university‚ he worked closely with Professor Z.K. Matthews and Govan Mbeki – Thabo’s father. He went into exile in 1960‚ only to return in 1991. He worked for the United Nations and later the ANC appointed him as its Chief Representative in Sweden. He was the first black High Commissioner of South Africa to Sweden from 1995 up until 1999. He then was appointed as the Chief of State Protocol under Thabo Mbeki’s administration. Modise retired in 2006.

Thabo Mbeki posted a written tribute on hearing of his death‚ calling Modise a friend “and a fellow South African of principle‚ a lifetime defender of human freedom and dignity”.

“His contribution to everything we had to do during half-a-century‚ to set our country and people on a new path of liberty and hope‚ has been immense.”

Ramaphosa‚ in announcing Modise’s death‚ called him a “selfless” and “diligent” leader.

Billy Modise. File Photo
Billy Modise. File Photo
Image: DIRCO South Africa via Twitter

At a memorial service at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in Pretoria recently‚ Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said Modise’s personality and character were well-suited to his diplomatic calling. He was‚ she said‚ “A gentleman par excellence‚ who combined the rare traits of a skilful negotiator with those of an astute activist. A diligent man with the master's touch.”

Modise is survived by his wife‚ Yolisa‚ and a daughter.

A condolence book was opened at the funeral for mourners to share their memories and messages for the family.