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Statement: Sudden passing of big-hearted, bold and principled Equal Education founding member Lumkile Zani is devastating

28 November 2022
Statement: Sudden passing of big-hearted, bold and principled Equal Education founding member Lumkile Zani is devastating

The sudden passing on Sunday 27 November of one of Equal Education’s (EE) founding members, Lumkile “Ta Lee” Zani, is devastating. Lumkile, who was 43-years-old, is remembered by his family, friends and former EE colleagues as kind, principled, and a person of great strength.

The loss of EE co-founder Sis Yoliswa Dwane and of Lumkile within weeks of each other, and at their young ages, is deeply painful.

Lumkile grew up in Alice, Dimbaza, Zwelitsha and East London in the Eastern Cape. He completed school at KwaMfundo High School in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape. He studied photo-journalism, and worked as a chef.

Lumkile was EE’s first Administrator when we began our work in Khayelitsha in 2008. He later became a Community Organiser, and then Head of EE’s Community Department. He was the first Head of EE in the Eastern Cape in 2014, moving back to the province of his birth to lead the monitoring of the implementation of the Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure, and the organising of learners. Lumkile returned to Khayelitsha in 2016.

EE is grateful to Lumkile not only for the invaluable contributions that he made to organising parents and learners in township and rural communities, and for leading strategies to improve the infrastructure of Eastern Cape schools, but also for his comfort and support to EE and the Dwane family after the passing of Sis Yoli in October.

“When I first met Ta Lee, I was an Equaliser. He was bold, strong and very funny. He really had the most beautiful character. He held the balance of being a very strict and principled cadre, who would tell you when something was wrong, but he would also tell you when you did something right and that he was proud of you. He was a big brother. We could sit with Ta Lee and laugh throughout the conversation, but we would get the message that we needed to stand up and do the work in our communities.

Ta Lee was about being on the ground, he was in the community meetings and engaging in them. He lived EE. He made EE a home for a lot of us. We have lost a beautiful soul. He was very protective of the people he loved. He was less of a talker and more of a doer, taking action. He didn’t regard anything as impossible.

He encouraged EE’s young members to be confident and to take up space. He believed we were capable of anything. I am who I am because of Comrades like Ta Lee.” – Ntsiki Dlulani, former EE learner member and current Head of EE Western Cape

“Lumkile was a strong, kind and principled man. He was a leader by example, driven by an unwavering rejection of all forms of inequality and injustice. He was kind, funny and light-hearted, but also stern and uncompromising. He challenged his comrades to stay grounded, to remember their mission, and to be brave.

I will remember Lumkile’s radiant and contagious spirit, and his dedication to democratic ideals and organising. He was committed to hearing and being accountable to Equalisers and other members of Equal Education, and that commitment imbued so many with a deep sense of respect and admiration for Lumkile. He will be dearly and forever missed.” – Daniel Linde, former Deputy Head of EE Eastern Cape, and former Deputy Director of EE Law Centre

“In my memory of Equal Education’s early days, Lumkile is a major part of it. He was there when the organisation formed the first youth groups in Khayelitsha, he was there during the organisation’s first campaign on broken windows in Luhlaza High School, he was there during the organisation’s first national Congress, he was there in establishing the first parent branches, and he was there when the organisation opened the Eastern Cape office. Equal Education’s foundation is based on those firsts that Lumkile was part of.” – Ntuthuzo Ndzomo, former EE Deputy General Secretary

“Lumkile was a soft-spoken, warm-hearted comrade who was committed to building a better education system for the poorest children in South Africa… Lumkile was central to the formation of the character of EE, by being part of the first school meetings, engagements with youth leaders and organising of events including the campaign to fix broken windows. He was particularly passionate and skilled at engaging parents, recognising that they were an essential part of the struggle to improve education.” – Joey Hasson, founding member of EE

Lumkile leaves behind his sister and his twin sons. The details of his funeral will be confirmed by his family next week.

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For media queries, contact: Lumka Zani (Lumkile’s sister) on 078 834 0606 or 063 848 2978

Leanne Jansen-ThomasStatement: Sudden passing of big-hearted, bold and principled Equal Education founding member Lumkile Zani is devastating