Memorial service of photojournalist Juda Ngwenya by Cyril Ramaphosa, Rhema Church, Randburg, 26 October 2016

It is heart-breaking to say goodbye to a special human being like Mr Juda Ngwenya. 

He leaves his nation with a gaping wound and his profession with a void that will be hard to fill. 

I convey my heartfelt condolences to his wife, Mwelase and his children, Nkanyezi, Ntombi, Vusi, Sibusiso, and Bathabile. 

I pray that his entire family, friends, and colleagues will find comfort to know that in life he accomplished his mission. 

Photojournalism was Mr Ngwenya's identity and passion. He was prolific with his lens and captured iconic images that compelled us to have conversations about the wellbeing of our country and continent. 

His illustrious career took him all over Africa and his perspective was shared in remote corners of the world.

Only armed with a camera and a heart yearning for justice, he probed, provoked, and challenged our consciousness. 

He had a fascinating way to find various angles from which we could see life from the vantage point of an innocent, fair and balanced observer. 

His motivation was to document our history ethically, honestly and truthfully.

His craft and work was not merely to reflect, but to interpret with care and sensitivity. 

The depth of his composition and their incisiveness compelled us to dialogue about our collective future. 

He had the ability to take us into the world of others, transcending the barriers arresting our thoughts and freed the imagination to visualise beyond our immediate existence.

In many ways he was a teacher behind his lens.  

He used his medium and craft to reshape our world view, providing a record for history and immortalising the towering figures of our national life. 

And we know this was not an easy past time. Telling the story of a nation requires a deep commitment to go into places of human sorrow, suffering, and death— but each time the story had to be told. 

He had to use the lens to shock us out of the social comfort zones. His lens kept a watchful eye capturing every slide down the slippery slope of morality, the violence of a repressive state and the picking up of arms against fellow human beings.

Each shutter in his camera became an unstained record of truth.

And as we attempt to capture a still moment in life of a genius in photojournalism, we realise that his was a life dedicated to humanity and justice. 

His work will forever be our library of history. In every photo we will find him standing behind the lens to tell us the truth. We will find his flash an illumination into humanity's propensity for the darkness and destruction. 

In every frame and every angle we will find his passion and dedication, and so too, will we find his kindness and empathy towards his subjects. For this we must thank him for telling our story and for committing his life into ensuring that no one renders the history and memory of our people obsolete.  

We thank him for his courage to show us that in a time of strife and war, the lines are often blurred between collaborators and resistors, heroes and villains, saints and rogues.  

His pictures do not only reveal mankind's capacity for evil and brutality, but they also depict our innate capacity for redemption, love, and compassion. 

Running to the frontlines during the state of emergency in the eighties, Mr Ngwenya's evocative photography speak volumes of the courage of the oppressed masses and our youth to defy oppression.  

One can hear the struggle songs behind his pictures at funerals of those that were mercilessly mowed down by the apartheid security machinery. Mr Ngwenya was extraordinary because his pictures show that even during our turbulent times, the spirit of community and solidarity among our people could not be shattered. 

He was there to capture the joys and dreams of a nation when Nelson Mandela returned home in Soweto after 27 years of incarceration. 

He was there at Ohlange to photograph Mandela casting his historic vote in 1994.

He was one of the few journalists that Mandela admired and easily recognised during his international travels.  

In memory of this gifted photographer, we must as a nation use his rich archive to remind our youth and future generations of the costly prize of freedom. We must revisit his images in conflict and war zones to reject the self-appointed demagogues and advocates of violence and civil war.

We must pay attention to the details in the faces he captured in April 1994 to rejuvenate the hopes of our people by recommitting to serve them selflessly. His feats of achievements occurred when there were draconian laws targeting journalists who reported on the suffering and pain that apartheid brought to our people.

We owe it to Mr Ngwenya and his generation to ensure that we all work to ensure that the freedom of the press remains a cornerstone of our society as envisaged in our Constitution.

 Even as we face our own challenges, let us draw courage and inspiration from his example.

He taught us that we can still have humour in the face of annihilation.

He showed us that we can still be stylish when others seek to strip us of our dignity.

His pictures tell a story of a nation that can still love and unite when others seek to sow hatred and divisions.

He may never be in the photos himself but his heart and soul speak in the absence; for true and great photographers tell the story of others and never themselves.

In his absence we find a job well done. He can rest easy knowing he did his part and did it well.

May his beloved soul rest in everlasting peace!