Funde helped transformation journey

ICT giant Sonwabo Eddie Funde died of heart attack this week.
ICT giant Sonwabo Eddie Funde died of heart attack this week.

Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele mourns the death of former ambassador and SABC board chairman Sonwabo Eddie Funde, whom he
regarded as one of the pioneers of the post-apartheid information and communications technology policy and regulatory environment.

Funde, who was the ambassador to Germany from August 2008, died after suffering a cardiac arrest on Tuesday.

The freedom fighter served on the SABC board between January 2004 and December 2007.

"We give our collective thank you to the Funde family for allowing the nation to share in the life of this visionary for the sector. His life-long activism for the upliftment of black people influenced the trajectory of the telecommunications sector in South Africa and the region," Cwele said.

Funde's foresight saw him work with government in the development of the 1996 White Paper on Telecommunications Policy, which resulted in the formation of the SA Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Satra).

He later led Satra as its deputy chairman. His sense of collectivism saw him being elected as the founding chairman of the Telecommunications Regulators of Southern Africa, which has since been renamed Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa.

Cwele said Funde's pioneering work laid the foundation for the regulation and liberalisation of the telecommunications sector.

He also served as deputy chairman of the Presidential National Commission on Information Society and Development.

Funde was a life-long fighter against apartheid, having dedicated most of his adult life to advancing the cause for a just and equal society, particularly through his sterling contribution to the development of the telecommunications and broadcasting industries.

His contribution to the ICT sector only forms a portion of the illustrious career of this gallant freedom fighter.

The industry honoured Funde in 2016 when the South African Communications Forum awarded him a Special Award.

"Amb Funde leaves behind a great legacy for the telecoms sector. We should all emulate him as we build a more inclusive sector."

Prior to the advent of democracy, Funde joined the ANC underground in SA and was forced into exile in 1965. Thereafter he served in various capacities of the ANC for more than 20 years, including as head and international head of the ANC Youth Section in Zambia (1978-1983); and administrator and researcher, civil service unit of the party in SA (1992-1994)

After the triumph of democracy in 1994, he served in various public and private agencies in an executive and nonexecutive capacity.

The SABC also paid its tribute.

"The success and growth of the SABC under his leadership bares testimony to his wealth of knowledge and great expertise. He will be remembered for his humble yet assertive nature," said SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago.

"Throughout his career, he has been well-positioned to navigate the transformation needed in the country. His meaningful contribution to society at large has not only left a positive impact but serves as the epitome of leadership that we can all draw inspiration from."