Tribute to Lucrecia Seafield by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, held at the offices of Lawyers for Human Rights, 357 Visagie St, Pretoria, 7 December 2017
Programme Director, Bishop Verryn
Members of Lucrecia’s family
The Chairperson, members of the Board and staff of the Foundation for Human Rights
The Board and staff of Lawyers for Human Rights
Lucrecia’s friends and colleagues
Lucrecia – or, as some of the members of our Constitutional Development Branch officials call her, “beloved Lucrecia” - was a strong, spirited and courageous woman, with an endearing smile that embraced all.
She embodied everything an activist should be.
And she understood the nature human rights as they truly are – not as a “nice-to-have”, but something that affects the human condition to its very core.
Lucrecia wrote a chapter - it’s Chapter 9 - of a book called “Human Rights under African Constitutions” and, what is really telling, is that in it she writes:
“The struggle for democracy in South Africa was for the attainment of political rights and social justice.”
She understood the struggle for social justice so well that she dedicated her life to it.
David Beresford, in his book “Truth is a Strange Fruit: A Personal Journey through the Apartheid War” mentions Lucrecia when he talks about how Lawyers for Human Rights would try and stop hangings and would fight for stays of execution for those on death row.
When the Foundation for Human Rights began in 1996, when it was still known as the European Union Foundation for Human Rights, Lucrecia was there.
For us, in the Department, it was Lucrecia's role in supporting the promotion of constitutional rights in South Africa and, in particular, her work on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which South Africa ratified, which stands out.
Lucrecia played a key role as a member of the National Schools Moot Court Competition Steering Committee.
As member of the Steering Committee she displayed immeasurable leadership and had love and interest in the development of the learners without qualification. Her exemplary support given to the Department of Basic Education never went unnoticed.
What struck one the most was that, as ill as she was at the time, Lucrecia made sure she attended the Final Round of the Moot Court Competition, and she stayed right to the very end, ensuring that the event ran smoothly, especially for the learners who were participating.
She also played a vital role in the establishment of the Working Group on Constitutional and Human Rights Education from its inception, following a National Colloquium in July 2015, which Lucrecia coordinated.
She was key in ensuring that the fundamental responsibilities of the Working Group were realised, responding ever so willingly to the issues and challenges raised.
Her distinguished experience in the legal and civil society space helped the Working Group develop and improve working relations between government departments, Chapter 9 Institutions, civil society and relevant legal institutions participating in the Working Group.
Lucrecia was instrumental in assisting the Department with the coordination of civil society’s inputs to Government’s Initial Report to the United Nations on the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
We are proud to say that is the first international treaty report that was consulted upon so widely – and this is thanks to Lucrecia’s passion for socio-economic rights.
She also played an important role during the revival of the LGBTI National Task Team and, with her dedication to the task, we successfully finalized an Inter-sectoral Plan which led to the development of the LGBTI National Intervention Strategy.
At the 90th birthday of Walter Sisulu in 2002, Nelson Mandela remarked that –
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
Lucrecia’s work made an indelible mark on the lives of others.
We will continue to be inspired by her strength, her decisive actions, her love and friendship, her patriotism and her uncompromising spirit to live by the values of our Constitution as we carry forth her vision to play a meaningful role in the realization of human rights for all.
To her family, in particular, her daughter, Nicky and her partner, Wally, our sincerest condolences.
Also to her colleagues at the Foundation and her former colleagues at LHR, we mourn her passing with you. It is an incalculable loss.
At this time we also think of Rudolph Jansen – like Lucrecia a renowned human rights lawyer and long-standing member of Lawyers for Human Rights.
Lucrecia’s legacy is an enduring one.
But while we mourn her passing, let us also celebrate her life. As a few lines of a poem by David Harkins says -
You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she's gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
Lala ngoxolo, our sister of the soil.
May her soul rest in eternal peace.