Robbed of another great man in my life

CityPress - - Business - Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive, an ad­ver­tis­ing agency Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@city­

Dis­pos­sessed. That’s how I feel to­day. Robbed. I haven’t felt this way since I was a lit­tle boy in KwaThema, when S’thembile robbed me of my grand­mother’s R10. Gogo had sent me to buy meat at the hos­tel butch­ery.

He tricked me, the bloody bas­tard. He was a friend, or at least I thought he was. We used to play to­gether, even though he was older than me. So when he came to chat, I sus­pected noth­ing. Af­ter all, he was a harm­less church­go­ing boy. When he asked to see if my R10 and his were the same size, I thought: “Why not?”

He put one of top of the other. They were in­deed the same size. Then he put them both in his pocket.

There was a lit­tle for­est nearby, and he asked me to ac­com­pany him there so he could go to the toi­let – as boys, we did that all the time. As you squat­ted to­gether, all you needed to do was blow with your mouth closed, and, ac­cord­ing to leg­end, that would pre­vent your mother’s breasts from swelling, wher­ever she was.

We were hardly in the for­est when he turned around and shouted: “Voet­sek!” Then he slapped me on the cheek. I re­sisted, but then I re­mem­bered the Se­pedi adage: “To re­treat is not to sur­ren­der.” So I walked back home and told my older brother, Bra Pat.

We went back and looked for him, but we didn’t find him. We went back that night, but he wasn’t there. Forty years have passed, and I still haven’t seen S’thembile.

I feel dis­pos­sessed again to­day. Death has robbed me of a bril­liant young man, Mandla Khoza, who worked for me at TBWA \Hunt\ Las­caris. I ap­pointed him as a busi­ness man­ager and his first task in his new role was to ten­der for the 2010 World Cup – a once-in-a-life­time event. He worked tire­lessly.

An hour af­ter the ten­der had closed, Mandla walked into my of­fice. “You look tired,” I said. “Eish,” he said. “How did it go?” “I was late,” he replied. I asked what had hap­pened. He tried to find an ex­cuse.

“Don’t do it again,” I told him, and he never did. In­stead, he brought the group more than R400 mil­lion in new busi­ness.

One day he walked into my of­fice to re­port that, while I was over­seas, he had put to­gether a ten­der for Mpumalanga Tourism and that we had been short-listed. When he’d trav­elled, he drove a small car with another gi­ant – in stature – Vusi Nh­lapho. I shud­der to think how it must have been in­side that car. He asked me for a big­ger car.

“You can’t drive there,” I replied. “Book a flight and I will join you.”

We flew out that af­ter­noon, all three of us. He sug­gested fast food for din­ner, and I said we should rather have a good din­ner and be well rested be­fore the pre­sen­ta­tion. Of course, I didn’t know that it would be our last sup­per to­gether.

Look­ing ashen at break­fast the next morn­ing, Mandla told me that his com­puter was run­ning low on bat­tery. “Go get the charger,” I replied. “I for­got it in Johannesburg.” There we were – 5% bat­tery and just two hours to go be­fore the pre­sen­ta­tion – that’s Mandla for you. But we made a plan, and we won the busi­ness.

Now Mandla has done it again. He died be­fore me. In a car ac­ci­dent.

He was sup­posed to stand at my fu­neral to talk about me, not the other way around. Peo­ple aren’t meant to bury their pro­tégés. But, it’s Mandla.

Go well, nt­wana.

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