Thank you, ‘Old Eyes’

Grocott's Mail - - OPINION & ADVICE -

The sec­ond in #Thede­bate2019 series took the project to a new level. Health work­ers, of­fi­cials, youth and NGOS en­gaged in frank dis­cus­sion – both dur­ing the de­bate in BB Zon­dani Hall, and the round-ta­ble be­fore­hand.

Dr Tho­bile Mben­gashe took time to drive all the way from East Lon­don for the ses­sions which were small enough to al­low for qual­ity con­ver­sa­tions about the chal­lenges fac­ing young peo­ple when it comes to their well-be­ing in our town. That the Prov­ince’s most se­nior of­fi­cial in the Health De­part­ment sees it as im­por­tant to en­gage with the NGOS and young peo­ple of Makhanda is en­cour­ag­ing.

One Au­gust af­ter­noon in 2015, a Gro­cott’s Mail reader knocked on the edi­tor’s door. She was fu­ri­ous. So fu­ri­ous that she’d walked and used taxis to travel the 10km from her New­town, Fingo Vil­lage home, to bring a let­ter. Her let­ter chal­lenged the way that her mu­nic­i­pal­ity was com­mu­ni­cat­ing with her – or not. Makana re­sponded and apol­o­gised. Man­gesi had that way about her: she spoke and peo­ple lis­tened.

And it wasn’t just that she’d taught many of the peo­ple in this town. It was that she didn’t waste words on rhetoric – she said things the way they were.

Not that she wasn’t also a poet – re­mem­ber her piece, early on in the columns, ‘New­town… Old Eyes’, called ‘My car­na­tions’?

She was also some­thing of a prophet – although one can al­most hear her say­ing, “Oh no, that’s non­sense!”

In a piece called ‘Send­ing Par­lia­ment back to school,’ pub­lished in Septem­ber 2015 she wrote, “I lis­tened with ap­pre­ci­a­tion as the Deputy Pres­i­dent, Dr Cyril Ramaphosa, read out a state­ment, lay­ing out strate­gies for the erad­i­ca­tion of all types of cor­rup­tion, and I ex­cit­edly re­marked “Ramaphosa is long over­due. I think he strikes the bal­ance that ANC has been lack­ing. This is just an old lady’s opin­ion.” She was also very funny. “Thought for the day: Noth­ing makes a woman feel older than meet­ing a bald-headed man who was two stan­dards be­hind her at school.”

On 13 Novem­ber 2015 we pub­lished this piece writ­ten by Olive Ngesi: “The city coun­cil’s name is not what mat­ters. What they must do is con­vince the com­mu­nity – not by words and empty prom­ises, but by a com­plete change of char­ac­ter.

“They are aware of all that has brought them to such dis­re­pute. They must say what they are go­ing to do that hasn’t been done be­fore, as well as tell us what they’re not go­ing to do that has been done be­fore and shouldn’t have been… This is a com­mu­nity in great pain…”

Rest in peace, ‘Old Eyes’ and thank you for your wis­dom.

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