JOE MAFELA’S LAST CRUISE
“I hugged him tightly and said goodbye. I didn’t know it was our last hug. I didn’t know I was saying goodbye for good. I didn’t know I would not see him again.”
These are the words of Joe Mafela’s close friend, Sonnyboy Khoza, who spent his last holiday with the Mafelas at Portuguese Island in Mozambique this month.
Khoza last saw Mafela at OR Tambo Airport, the day before he died in a car accident on Johannesburg’s M1 highway last Saturday night. He had just returned from his annual stokvel cruise with his wife, Andy, and their close friends.
Khoza, a longtime friend, said they had been running their stokvel holiday arrangement for more than five years and had become a big family.
He said what made this holiday extra special was that Andy joined them. “It was rare that Joe would travel with his wife, but this time he brought her with him and they had time together.
“On our last day on the cruise, as usual, Joe was mingling and joking with everyone. While we were still chilling and having our drinks, 80% of people of all colours came and took pictures with him. This really showed that everyone knew who he was. But that didn’t bother him. He didn’t stop entertaining his fans.”
Speaking after Mafela’s memorial service, held on Thursday morning at the Johannesburg Theatre, his younger brother, Paul, said he was devastated.
He last saw Mafela earlier this month, and the last thing Mafela told him was that he wished to “conduct the unveiling ceremony for our great-grandfather in November”.
“Now that Joe is no more, I have to make his wish come true,” he said.
“We were very close. We used to do things together, such as driving. He really enjoyed driving. I don’t have a driver’s licence; now I have no one to drive me.”
Mafela, he said, brought the family closer. “He put the family together. He was a peacemaker.”
Mafela’s funeral service takes place on Wednesday at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus from 9am to noon. He will be laid to rest at Westpark Cemetery.
RELAXING ON VACAY Joe Mafela on a cruise to Portugese Island in Mozambique with friends