Selfless, passionate and the ultimate humanitarian. These were some of the words friends, family and colleagues used to describe renowned human rights lawyer, Priscilla Jana, at her funeral in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Jana who died on Saturday, was accorded a special provincial official funeral level two. She made a significant contribution to the struggle, defending many of those arrested and detained by the apartheid regime including Nelson Mandela and Solomon Mahlangu.
Held at the Lenasia Crematorium, south of Johannesburg, Priscilla Jana’s funeral observed both Hindu traditional rites as well as government official processes. Among those present was Human Rights Commission Chairperson, Bongani Majola, who said his Deputy, Jana, was selfless and primarily concerned with equality and justice.
He says in the just-over two years Jana served at the Commission, she taught him that fame and power were only useful if they were used to assist others.
“Priscilla was absolutely resolute in her belief in justice and equality the short time that she spent at the Commission was dedicated to largely pushing for equality and eradication of poverty. She chose equality as her focus area for bringing change in addition to the work she did in this regard Commissioner Jana was often critical that the Commission and government had not done enough to reduce and eliminate inequality. It always pained her for instance to see children and their mothers begging at the street corners.”
In his tribute, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said Jana’s passing presents an opportunity for African National Congress leaders to reflect on their conduct and the country’s future.
He said the decline in the ANC’s moral stature will result in the country being lead by those that do not value an inclusive South Africa which embraces all its people.
“We should wake up, our people may love us but their love is not endless. The signals are there for us to see, we must not make this government of our people a spaza shop of the ANC, or government must not make the ANC its own spaza shop. We cannot continue like this, if we do we will betray Priscilla Jana, an Indian woman that protected us from death.”
Meanwhile, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had a more personal message, saying Jana was part of her extended family and thanking her for the love and assistance to her family.
“Priscilla was a friend of the entire family she defended my mother in Pietermaritzburg and every other case that she was subjected to. She later defended by brother who spent a long time in solitary confinement, she defended every member of the family my younger brother as well before he was sentenced to Robben Island. She went to Cape Town with us and ensured that she looked after Mama. She was an extended member of the family,”
Among the last to speak were Jana’s son and daughter Shivesh Sewpal and Tina Chikane. They spoke of the great love they had for their mother, with Chikane lauding Jana’s open-mindedness.
“She was very passionate about her work and serving her country in fact she was passionate about everything she did including raising an African child in a Hindu home as her own. She taught me about empowerment, black consciousness equality in all aspects of life and she was happy for me to embrace any religion I chose in our household.”
Messages of condolence pour in for the late Priscilla Jana: