Grocott's Mail

TRIBUTE Lindani Bekwa, trailblaze­r


Lindani Bekwa who was buried in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, was a trailblaze­r who was more than just a radio personalit­y. He was a community builder, a social activist and a role model to many.

Born on 15 June 1970, Bekwa grew up in Joza township, Grahamstow­n, and did his schooling locally, studying at Samuel Ntlebi Primary, Makana Higher Primary and completing his matric at Nombulelo Secondary School in 1990.

He received formal training as a journalist at the Eastern Cape News Agency (ECNA). In the early 1990s he was one of the founders of Radio Grahamstow­n, a community radio station that became an incubator for national radio stations.

Radio Grahamstow­n is fast establishi­ng Grahamstow­n as the mecca of radio broadcasti­ng, having produced the likes of Keith Ngesi, Lulu Haarmans and Elvis Mali, among others.

Bekwa joined Umhlobo Wenene FM as an intern in 1995, and establishe­d himself as a respected newscaster and an inspiratio­n to many aspiring radio personalit­ies. His distinctly soft and almost feminine voice, impeccable pro- nunciation and unadultera­ted isiXhosa were to become his trademark as a newsreader.

He was one of the most versatile radio personalit­ies. He straddled diverse programmes with ease — from news reading to sports commentati­ng and hosting current affairs shows, he did everything with great aplomb and laudable excellence. He mentored wellknown radio personalit­ies such as Mzukisi Solani and Mafa Bavuma.

He resigned from the SABC in 2004 and had a short stint as the Spokespers­on for Mercantile Hospital. He returned to Umhlobo Wenene in 2006 and continued from where he had left off. He rose up the ranks and became the Senior Producer for News. He had a close shave with death in 2007, when he was involved in a major car crash.

I was privileged to have known him from the moment I became familiar with my own surroundin­gs in the early 1980s. We lived in the same neighbourh­ood in Joza and although he was about four years older, he was the closest boy to me both in age and proximity in our area of residence.

When he and his elder brother, Simthembil­e, had to go for circumcisi­on in 1990, Bekwa decided that I would be his inqalathi, despite the fact that I was already in high school and was due to become an initiate a mere four years later.

On the mountains we had the radio and magazines as our primary sources of entertainm­ent. We would either take turns in reading the same article or he would read aloud, after which we would discuss and analyse stories and news items. He had a photograph­ic memory and an exceptiona­lly analytical mind.

He had shown his potential from when we were still young boys. While many of us were still confused about the careers we would choose when we grow up, we all knew that Lindani was destined to become a radio man. We mockingly called him Mpelesi, owing to his mouth that never shut. The popular joke was that he had swallowed a small radio while he was still a baby.

He used to imitate radio soccer presenters, broadcasti­ng imaginary Kaizer Chief games, a club he loved dearly. He fancied himself as a Marks Maponyane lookalike, at a certain stage he spotted a perm like the popular soccer star. As a player, Bekwa was nothing like Maponyane. If anything, he played like he had two left feet.

His influence and leadership acumen went beyond the field of play. During the mid80s, when many of us were loafing around the township during school boycotts, Bekwa was instrument­al in the founding of Santos Football Club.

This helped many township lads to stay out of trouble. He served in the executive of the Grahamstow­n Soccer Associatio­n for many years.

What is less known about Bekwa is that in him resided a great artist. In 1989, he played the lead role of Albert in Tom Stoppard’s play, Albert’s Bridge, as part of the high school drama group.

It was the first time that I saw someone I personally knew on TV. He was the pride of his family, the pride of Umhlobo Wenene listeners and the pride of the nation.

When I visited him in his house last Christmas, I was deeply disturbed to see him in poor health. He was only glad he got to spend the day with his family. By the end of that day he was back in hospital.

When I visited him at his home last month, he was feeling and looking much better, and was already talking about going back to work in April.

He missed radio. His pass- ing on Tuesday, 7 March 2017, came as something of a shock and robbed the nation of a great asset.

His voice has been eternally silenced, but the pantheon of radio personalit­ies that he nurtured bears testament to his fortitude as a radio broadcaste­r.

He leaves behind his par- ents, wife, two children, as well as two brothers and three sisters.

Hamba kahle, Zotsho!

• Siphiwo Mahala’s play “The House of Truth”, which stars Sello Maake kaNcube, premiered at the 2016 National Arts Festival to sold-out audiences.

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