Sisulu became one of his main benefactors, after she learnt of his plight through a Cape Times campaign to raise funds for expensive, specialist treatment for him. She and a number of other readers responded generously.
In April last year, Junaid rubbed shoulders with the country’s top politicians in Parliament as a special guest of Sisulu when she delivered her department’s budget speech.
Dressed in a new black suit, white shirt, a smart black tie and sneakers, Junaid said he felt like a VIP as he was chauffeur-driven from his family’s modest home in Portlands, Mitchells Plain, to the National Assembly.
A few months later, Sisulu helped his family renovate their home after sending them on holiday to Langebaan.
From May 2014, Junaid fought stage-four neuroblastoma – a cancerous tumour that begins in the nerve cells of infants and children.
Many people, including Sisulu, helped to fulfil his wish of celebrating his last days.
Speaking on behalf of Sisulu, Human Settlements spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said it was “definite” that she would attend the funeral because she had been fond of Junaid, even though arrangements had not been finalised.
Sisulu has not visited the family yet to enable them to grieve and arrange Junaid’s funeral, said Mabaya.
“But we are in touch because when you are in this difficult time you need that peace of mind. In this time they need our prayers and to know we are there. Our officials in Cape Town will do routine visits.
“Over time the minister grew a bond with the family and with the little boy,” added Mabaya.
“The minister has been informed that the boy has passed on and she is in touch with the family,” he said, noting that even though Junaid had not been well, “he was always playful, joyful and talkative”.
“The minister loved the fact that the child was a fighter and had the will to live even when doctors told his family he had little time left,” said Mabaya.
“You could see that the medication had exhausted him but he wanted to fight. He was very happy when they were on holiday in Langebaan.
“His spirit was revived, and the minister liked that. When the boy was around the minister you could see his happiness.
“She (Sisulu) believed that South Africans should be like him and have the will to live their lives to the fullest. He was an example and he championed his life.”
Another major benefactor, Mayor Patricia de Lille, who donated R25000 and visited Junaid several times, sent her condolences and pledged to assist the family further.
Her spokesperson, Zara Nicholson, said De Lille would contribute to the funeral.
“She will visit the family this week, and when she speaks to the family she will know how she will contribute,” said Nicholson.
Social media was abuzz with messages of support, with Fazlin Fransman posting: “Every time I spoke to comrade Lindiwe (Sisulu), she would speak about little Junaid.
“I got to know about his struggle and story through her, and we hoped that this day would not come.”
Tamzin Bell posted: “(Stay) strong Pastor Leonard (Junaid’s grandfather) and his mother Monique. It’s so hard to say goodbye to someone so young who had his whole future ahead of him. But God shall wipe away all tears.”