Af­ter pass­ing colour to the chick­ens – David Stoker can rest

The Sunday Independent - - BUSINESS - PALI LEHOHLA Lehohla is for­mer Statis­ti­cian-Gen­eral of South Africa and for­mer head of Statis­tics South Africa.

AN AFRIKANER in­tel­lec­tual has fallen. Pro­fes­sor David Stoker, a lead­ing African fig­ure in sur­vey sam­pling method­ol­ogy joined the an­ces­tors on Wed­nes­day at 89.

His ca­reer was colour­ful. But as the Ba­pedi would say “Khaka kholo se na ma­bala, ha e fofa e nts’o, ma­bala a na le likhakana”. Loosely trans­lated, it means that a ma­ture guinea fowl has no colour. In full flight it is black. Colour is only vis­i­ble among its chick­ens.

Stoker’s life is a story of how not to be a wretched widow or to mourn the great­est, but to grief in cel­e­bra­tion. In his race, he grew, men­tored and coached many. He lived a life of self-liq­ui­dat­ing cat­alytic role, a true suc­ces­sion plan cre­at­ing more ca­pac­ity pass­ing on colour to the chick­ens.

I first met Stoker in 1983 shortly af­ter he joined the Hu­man Sciences Re­search Coun­cil as a direc­tor of sur­vey method­ol­ogy. Even when he was pro­moted to a bet­ter po­si­tion, he re­mained com­mit­ted to teach­ing. It was the love of his life.

He had a con­trolled stam­mer that only be­came no­tice­able when he was ex­cited.

He would trans­late di­rectly from Afrikaans and say “I will learn you this method” in­stead of I will teach you and this would send the whole class to stitches.

This is how the guinea fowl passed colour to the chick­ens.

One of my most mem­o­rable en­coun­ters was in 1988 when I vis­ited him on a method­olog­i­cal de­sign prob­lem. As I en­tered his of­fice the first thing he told me was about an ex­pe­ri­ence he had just had of trav­el­ling at the speed of sound.

Still baf­fled, he nar­rated the trans-At­lantic ex­pe­di­tion of un­der two hours on a con­cord from Paris to New York and back. He was there on an as­sign­ment on sam­pling.

Who thought statis­ti­cians could be treated like kings?

In 1991, I drove from Mma­batho with my 7-year and 4-year-old sons to Pre­to­ria over a week­end to join him on a sam­pling de­sign pro­gramme for a post-enu­mer­a­tion sur­vey for the Bo­phuthatswana Cen­sus. My boys will never for­get the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing at Pro­fes­sor Stoker’s home.

Stoker was a stu­dent for life. When I took over as the statis­ti­cian-gen­eral, I re­tained Stoker as a con­sul­tant at Statis­tics SA, train­ing many more sur­vey statis­ti­cians and method­ol­o­gists. Stokes headed late pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela’s call for whites to use their priv­i­lege of years to em­power blacks in ded­i­cat­ing his en­er­gies to im­prov­ing Stats SA.

When he dared us as we planned for the 1996 cen­sus and deal­ing with the ques­tion of race, Stoker said “I am an African”, thus throw­ing a tail­spin on the black, white, coloured and Asian cat­e­gori­sa­tion.

In his fa­mous “I am an African” speech, for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki paid tribute to the Stok­ers of our South Africa who heeded Man­dela’s call for gen­eros­ity of mind and heart.

Stats SA is an in­sti­tu­tion that has not aged or passed on with the ag­ing of white hu­man cap­i­tal like our mu­nic­i­pal­ity in­fra­struc­ture. It has re­mained re­ju­ve­nated as a pearl of the na­tion em­brac­ing all races sug­gest­ing a dif­fer­ent South Africa is pos­si­ble – one with­out self-in­flicted night­mares. One truly en­vi­sioned by the Con­sti­tu­tion. Colour is with the chick­ens. May Stoker’s soul rest in peace and his widow be con­soled.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.