Family man who was all about engagement
The news of his passing may have escaped many who were touched by his affectionate smile. But the funeral service, held in his honour at Bryanston Methodist Church in Johannesburg on Thursday, was a tribute to his many and varied good deeds. Those present and absent will attest to these with unfailing consistency.
The savvy, Soweto-born Windsor Shuenyane, affectionately known as “Bra Windsor”, would have turned 82 years old this year.
Hailing from Orlando East in Soweto, he met his soul mate, Esline “Essie” Dayel, at Orlando High School. From there began a romance that blossomed into a marriage lasting 54 years. The couple had four sons: Tumi, Tshepo, Khumo and Wanda.
Shuenyane trained as a social worker and his entire career was marked by the support and upliftment he extended to others as he rose. He initially worked at care centres such as the School for the Blind and the SA National Tuberculosis Association.
His lifelong response to the needy is best described by life coach, author and motivational speaker Mike Muendane as “a much-needed leadership capability that propels people who care to take frontline responsibility to effect change for the better out of volition rather than under duress”.
The turning point of Shuenyane’s career came when he was headhunted by SA Breweries (SAB) in the early 1980s. This paved the way for him to bring about groundbreaking corporate social investment initiatives to the corporate world.
In doing so, he redefined the role of business by extending it to include community upliftment. One could say he pioneered the notion of social entrepreneurship.
Without Bra Windsor’s thought leadership, would there have been platforms and opportunities for shining stars such as Telkom board chair Jabu Mabuza or the doyen of theatre, John Kani?
Shuenyane was the inspiration behind many causes that were born and flourished at the SAB World of Beer Centenary Centre, where he worked, which came to shape South Africa’s contemporary robust intellectual engagement.
Shuenyane used his executive position to make the SAB World of Beer the people’s centre and enable critical debates to take place between artists, academics, politicians and business leaders, particularly while the nation was in transition. He facilitated meaningful relationships with government officials and other corporate and community stakeholders. Long before the adoption of our current national anthem, those close to Bra Windsor were familiar with his predilection for jazz great Sibongile Khumalo’s 2005 number, Plea for Africa, with backing vocals by Imilonji Kantu Choral Society and spontaneous melodious rejoinders by the congregation. Paying tribute to him at the funeral was writer and academic Moteane Melamu, who referred to Shuenyane as a man “born under a dancing star, a child of joy who exuded what the French call joie de vivre, the joy of life”.
The affectionate speeches by his sons and granddaughters attested to Shuenyane’s parenting skills. Referring to his marriage to Essie, the parting remarks by programme director Nolitha Vukuza were just as seminal: “You made marriage sexy. You gave marriage a picture of success. And you made marriage a successful institution built to last.”
The hugs given by mourners to Essie served as assurances that “your pain is ours too”.
The unforgettable Bra Windsor may be gone, but his deeds will live on. Essie can take comfort in the memories of a blissfully warm and happy marriage. As poet and author Don Mattera concluded: “Bra Windsor’s widow possesses and exudes a serene aura of womanhood, as do her granddaughters and daughters-in-law.”
– Oupa Ngwenya