The Special Provincial Official funeral for former KwaZulu-Natal Premier and cabinet minister, Dr. Ben Ngubane, is due to take place at the Ngwelezane Community Hall, in Empangeni, on Sunday morning.

Ngubane died on Monday at the age of 79 from COVID-19-related complications at a KwaZulu-Natal hospital.

Ngubane had been admitted to the hospital for two weeks at the time of his passing.

Family spokesperson Mondli Kunene told SABC News,”Until last Tuesday he made a funny comment which was giving me hope that he’s going to recover. He said he was able to go and take a shower by himself while he’s in hospital and after that one could not access him until last week his daughter informed us her father is not in good shape. Even yesterday she said anything could happen. This morning we received a message that he has passed on,”

Ngubane was Premier of KwaZulu-Natal from 1997 until 1999 – and served as an Ambassador to Japan between 2004 and 2008.

Tributes pour in for Dr. Ngubane:

Ngubane’s background

Ngubane was born in 1941 at the Inchanga Roman Catholic Mission in Camperdown in KwaZulu-Natal. He began his political career in the early 70s while at the University of Natal’s medical school.

There, he served as the vice president of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). He joined the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in 1976, eventually becoming its national chairperson.

Ngubane joined government in 1994 when he was appointed the first Minister of Arts, Culture, Science, and Technology. A portfolio he would serve in again in 1999. This was shortly after becoming KZN premier two years prior.

“When I become Minister of Science and Technology in 2009, I had the pleasure of benefitting from the solid foundation that Dr. Ngubane and my other predecessors had put in place. It made it easy for us to focus on speeding up the implementation of the projects they had started. South Africa owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Ngubane for pioneering our science and technology,” Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Dr. Naledi Pandor, has said.

Ngubane was appointed South Africa’s ambassador to Japan in 2004.

In 2006, he ended his long-term relationship with the IFP when he resigned from the party to join the African National Congress (ANC).

He previously served at the helm of parastatals like Eskom and the SABC.

In 2020, he testified at the State Capture Commission on alleged wrongdoing by entities contracted by Eskom and linked to the Gupta family.

In the health sector, he’s been lauded for his role in changing the landscape of private healthcare in KwaZulu-Natal.

Melomed Private Hospital Manager, Randal Pedro, says: “Dr. Ngubane played a pivotal role in the transformation of the private health care landscape in Northern KZN in his advisory capacity and we will personally miss his guidance and teaching. Melomed Richards bay was privileged to have his years of loyal patronage and support not just as a patient but as an adversary for access to health care and in doing so upholding his oath as a medical doctor.”

Dr. Ngubane leaves behind his wife and children. – Additional reporting by Phumzile Mlangeni