When you are this great, only the body dies....

Sunday Observer - - YOUTH SECTION -

BY SIBU­SISO DLAMINI

ever had I imag­ined hav­ing to go through this mo­ment – writ­ing ‘Mr. T’s’ trib­ute! This is the hard­est thing I’ve had to pen all year.

To­day, I woke up at 4:16am to write this trib­ute, but I couldn’t even fin­ish a sin­gle para­graph be­cause ev­ery sin­gle mo­ment with you I re­called, filled my eyes with tears and be­fore I knew it, my page was wet. This is the very same page you first read my work on about three years ago.

I first met ‘Mr. T’ briefly when I was around the age of 14, and I had been af­forded the op­por­tu­nity to job­shadow the Swazi Ob­server Group of News­pa­pers Manag­ing Ed­i­tor (ME) Mbon­geni Mbingo dur­ing my school hol­i­days. Se­nior Re­porter Tee­tee Zwane in­tro­duced me to every­one at the of­fice and when it fi­nally came to the ed­i­tor’s of­fice, she said ‘So this is the main man young man.

This is the man who al­lo­cates sto­ries and plans the whole pa­per’. In true ‘Mr. T’ style, he looked at me straight in the eyes and asked me ‘uyak­wati kub­hala nt­wana?’ loosely trans­lated to ‘do you know how to write young man?’

Be­ing a Manzini lad, I was quite impressed with his witty ‘pantsula’ vibe, but his voice was com­mand­ing and I quickly an­swered his ques­tion with an “uhmm, yes. I get very good marks in my com­po­si­tions.”

Laughed

He laughed off and said; “good then, I can’t wait to edit your story later on young man.”

That week, I got to see more of his charisma as I at­tended the ed­i­to­rial meet­ings where I would sit down and lis­ten with keen in­ter­est as the ed­i­tors dis­sected each and ev­ery part of the pa­per and mea­sured its weight against the op­po­si­tion.

I would later form a strong bond with ‘Mr. T ‘a good two years later when I fin­ished my ex­ams. I ini­tially had an ap­point­ment with the manag­ing ed­i­tor, but he was trav­el­ling in and out of the coun­try con­stantly due to aca­demic com­mit­ments, so he was on his way to Wits Univer­sity and hence re­ferred me to Thu­lani Th­wala.

Whilst the ME was quite a fa­mil­iar and more re­lat­able fig­ure to me, I had only met ‘Mr. T’ only dur­ing that week where I had been at­tached to the Ob­server two years back, and from be­ing an avid reader of his in­fa­mous ‘My Turn’ col­umn, I knew I had to pitch my idea to a man who was hard-to-im­press. I re­tucked in my blue shirt and made sure my shoes were well pol­ished.

As long-serv­ing front-gate man Bhek­i­sisa Mbuy­isa walked me through the stairs, I could lit­er­ally hear my heart beat­ing faster and when the door opened, I was led to his of­fice where he was read­ing one of the pages. He warmly wel­comed me and I had my go.

In only five min­utes, I pulled up my notepad where I had writ­ten my fea­tures and ‘Mr. T’ was blown away by the idea from that very mo­ment.

That very day, he took my notepad to sub-ed­i­tor Mbon­isi Ng­cam­pha­lala and asked him to type it for me and fur­ther planned how they would struc­ture it.

That was how the birth of ‘The Podium’ came about. That very day, he took me to a meet­ing he had with a cer­tain cor­po­rate com­pany, showed them my work and a week later, I was trav­el­ling around the coun­try and do­ing pub­lic-speak­ing for them. He didn’t just end there; he in­tro­duced me to his wife and fur­ther gave me bus fare to get back to Manzini, al­beit my ex­pla­na­tion to him that I had saved up enough lunch money.

From there on, ‘Mr. T’ treated me like a son, and this was not in any way mean­ing he didn’t come hard on me, in­stead it was more on me.

To ‘Mr. T’, he ate dead­line as he liked to say. Ev­ery time my col­umn was late, even for an hour – he would yell at me “Ye Dlamini, utawukhandza sekadze ngayikhipha le Podium mine nawutawun­gibam­belela.

Un­like your teacher’s young man, I’m your ed­i­tor. I don’t get to hound you on my work, you know the dead­line and I ex­pect you to meet it. I eat dead­lines, I breathe dead­lines, my life is al­ways on the edge, so help me help you and get my work done on time please!”

This was the man he was. He be­lieved in tough-love and he al­ways told me that’s what made me tick.

‘Mr. T’ knew the two most im­por­tant things in my life, so when­ever he would have a se­ri­ous talk with me about work, he would firstly be­gin with the ques­tion - “Un­jani make Nkhosi? Ngiy­at­semba awu­muhluphi lo­muntfu lomdzala nt­wana.”

Gifted

The prob­lem with you Sbu­siso is that you some­times for­get who you are and that wor­ries me greatly. You are gifted nt­wana, a tal­ent I haven’t seen in this in­dus­try in such a long-time.

You’re a nat­u­ral in this thing, but that alone won’t take you to the level you need to get to. Spana nt­wana!

I have never be­lieved in edit­ing your work be­cause I con­fi­dently pub­lished your first piece of work with­out hav­ing to do so – and that time you were young and naïve, so why should I start now? Just like I took your hand in when you walked through this build­ing, I can eas­ily kick you out if you start do­ing the op­po­site of what we agreed on, so please don’t test me!”

That was ‘Mr. T’ for you, -a fear­less fig­ure, a witty fel­low and a tal­ented jour­nal­ist who served jour­nal­ism dili­gently and pas­sion­ately for 23 years.

He in­flu­enced my writ­ing greatly be­cause he shielded me a lot through from the back­lash I would re­ceive from my con­tro­ver­sial sub­ject mat­ters and strong opin­ions on The Podium. When I was later on tasked with the youth sec­tion, he was an avid reader and al­ways gave con­struc­tive crit­i­cism.

He even had talks with me on hip-hop and made fun of my dress code. “Hhawu Sbuda...yabona mine laMzansi ngiva lo Nasty C, bese ke tsine uyasati silalela bo Rick Ross, hhayi these small boys of yours that make noise!

And whilst I do take you shi­cholo (fade), nalemit­sekane (sneak­ers), I will not tol­er­ate lama t-shirt labo­hhabah­haba abo 2-Pac (over-sized T-shirts) and your torn pants (ripped-jeans) on a Mon­day will not be tol­er­ated.

You are dis­re­spect­ing me ke nyalo Nkhosi.” After not com­ment­ing about my fea­tures for a while, these past few weeks you were back at it. From be­ing to­tally unim­pressed with the col­umn on Caro­line Kiara, and get­ting the whole news­room on your side to be­ing impressed with last week’s let­ter to the PM and the princess and fur­ther stat­ing how I had in­flu­enced your ‘My Turn’ the next day. I men­tioned how hum­bling that was to me and on Tues­day we had our last con- ver­sa­tion where I told you about my next ad­ven­ture - an idea I pitched to you two years ago, and it feels so sad that you won’t be around any­more to see it come to pass.

When I last spoke to you on Tues­day af­ter­noon, you and the Sports Ed­i­tor (Mphikeleli Msibi) threw your nor­mal jokes at me – “soya of­fer ke kusasa nt­wana, utabe un­alomt­fwana le­brema neh?” he said jok­ingly.

I said ‘yes’ cheek­ily and left them burst­ing in laugh­ter, promis­ing to see them on Thurs­day, to tell them how it went, but when Thurs­day came, I met Phet­sile who told me you had passed on.

I can­not find enough words to thank you for in­flu­enc­ing my life.

You gen­uinely cared about me. Took me in as one of the youngest to have ever stopped in t he news­room a nd re­minded me daily of how blessed I was to have this tal­ent and how I s hould a l ways c hal l e nge my­self. Rest in Power

King, you are a leg­end. When you are this great, only the body dies, your words will live for­ever ‘Mr.

T’.

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