With great sadness and deep affection, SAWIP joins the world in morning the death of US Congressman Donald Payne. In a life of service to his country, he never lost sight of the fact that we are all part of the human community and fought diligently and effectively for the rights of the disenfranchised, both at home and abroad.
As chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, his work in Africa became legendary. SAWIP was honored when he agreed – very early in the existence of our still-young organization – to join Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Dr. Mamphela Ramphele as an Honorary Patron. From that moment onward, he was an endearingly loyal and active friend. He spoke on our behalf at numerous events, introduced us to potential new partners, and proved to be an amazingly effective crowd-builder for our annual Congressional Forum, where our SAWIP students typically found themselves speaking before an audience sprinkled liberally with members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
A former public school teacher, Congressman Payne placed special emphasis on education, both as a legislative policy-maker and an individual who took special care with students lucky enough to cross his path. The SAWIP internship in his Capitol Hill office quickly became a much sought-after position because of the many opportunities it afforded, including on-going interaction and dialogue with Mr. Payne himself.
SAWIP will be forever grateful to Congressman Payne for the vital role he played in launching and nurturing our organization. The new generation of South African leaders he helped to inspire, prepare and support will take their place as part of his remarkable legacy.
“On hearing of the passing of Congressman Payne, I was instantly reminded of the last time I saw him. He called me into his office on my last day in his office and offered me a seat. He thanked me for my efforts and then turned to me with a sincere look on his face. He said “remember your fellow countrymen. Remember that by being here you have been given a great opportunity that many in your country could only dream of. This means that you have a great responsibility when you go back”. I think this sums up the greatness of the man who I will remember as a formative figure in my development. I join the SAWIP community in mourning the loss of Congressman Payne”. Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh (SAWIP Alumni 2011).
“Congress Donald Payne gave true meaning to the phrase African Diaspora. Our shared love for ice-cream was just one many of the things we shared – higher education and health in Africa were even more pertinent. He will sorely be missed by all of us who have known him personally and we intend to carry his torch with us to show his light to millions of the poor and sickly in Africa whom he dedicated his life to. Let your body rest, and your resilient spirit and unwavering commitment for Africa shall forever be with us.” Sabelo Mcinziba (SAWIP Alumni 2009).
“It was a true privilege working for Congressman Donald Payne. A man who not only showed us how the congressional Programme works but also how people can make a meaningfully contribution to Africa. The time spent in your office was inspirational and educational. A true honor.” Gillion Bosman, (SAWIP Alumni 2010).