(From Professor Helen Ware, UNE)
A celebration of the the life of Eddie Funde was held at Sydney Trades Hall on 19th June 2018. The venue was very appropriate because this was where Eddie established the African National Congress office after his arrival in 1983. After the breakdown of apartheid, Funde relocated to Johannesburg in 1992 and was appointed to a number of leading positions in the newly emerging democratic South Africa, initially as the chair of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
The Commemoration opened the with a stirring rendition of Nkosi Sikelel’ Africa by the Sydney Trade Union Choir.
Daren McDonald, a close friend, was the MC and had attended the funeral in South Africa from which he had brought back striking excerpts expressing the whole Nation’s loss.
Helen McCue, co-founder of Union Aid Abroad APHEDA, and Audrey McDonald, former National Secretary, Union of Australia Women, delivered a joint Eulogy with personal anecdotes. The deeply felt response came from Her Excellency Beryl Sisulu, the South African High Commissioner. Messages of Support came from Adam McCarthy, the current Australian High Commissioner in Pretoria,. Anthony Albanese MP, Tanya Plibersek MP, and Senator Jenny McAlister
In this setting, it was striking to remember what a vital role Eddie played in bringing the evils of Apartheid to the forefront of the consciousness of both Australian politicians and women and men in the street. Common themes raised by several speakers were that whilst Eddie was personally humble he was very proud on behalf of the people of South Africa; that there was a period when in Australia Funde was a better known name than Mandela and certainly much better known than the official Ambassador of Apartheid South Africa, who later paid him the tribute of acknowledging that Eddie had far outshone him in every area of access to the media. All agreed Eddie had immense courage from the time when he first joined the ANC, to the very end despite the accident which rendered him a paraplegic.
This was a rare occasion to celebrate the life of a major historical figure and for an older generation to relive past glories as trenchantly recalled by Kolin Thumbadoo, former President of the Australian Anti-Apartheid Movement. If only the Palestinians in Australia had an advocate with Eddie’s powers of persuasion.
Eddie’s autobiography, which is soon to be published, including the story of how his political juggling act resulted in the granting of the Freedom the City of Sydney to a still-imprisoned Nelson Mandela.
According to the Obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald of 31 May by McCue and McDonald:
‘Funde was instrumental in building an extraordinary array of support networks, among them the Luthuli group in Canberra which helped support a scholarship program with the ANU. The New Zealand ANC support committee was launched in 1988 as was the Australian Nelson Mandela Foundation with former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser as patrons.’
The Luthuli Group of Canberra was an anti-apartheid organization for the liberation of South Africa and Namibia with strong links to the ANU. See