We've never had a star like Thobani — small town broken by actor's death
While mourners will fill the Sandringham Sports Grounds in Queenstown on Saturday to pay tribute to Siyasanga Kobese‚ hundreds more will also be attending the funeral of actor Thobani Mseleni in his hometown just two hours away.
As visitors enter the sleepy little town of Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape‚ a giant mural of Thobani comes into view. It is in the most prominent place on the main road leading through the heart of the town‚ where anyone can come and pay tribute to their "son".
The town has taken on a new spirit‚ uniting all of its citizens in the two weeks since Thobani's death in a horror car crash which also killed Siyasanga‚ Akhumzi Jezile and two others.
Although he often visited and treated everyone like a best friend‚ Thobani‚ like Siyasanga‚ had a dream much bigger than this town and he had started several initiatives to help other youth in the area develop the same vision.
"He was a hero to us. We haven't had much famous people. Thobani was really our first superstar. The youth would see him on the TV and want to be like him. He would speak to them‚ train them through his acting workshops‚ and give them a chance through the events he would host. I don't think anyone understands how much he was loved here and how shattered we are by his passing‚" community leader Ayanda Jam told TshisaLIVE
The mural‚ painted and designed by unemployed local artists Thembakazi Bawuti and Athenkosi Ziqu‚ is one way in which everyone can pay their respects to the star.
The sadness is especially felt by Thobani's friends and cousins‚ who in the hours after his passing have "cried so many times for him"‚ and even sent him texts to tell him one last time how much of an impact he had on their lives.
"It is so devastating to come home and not see him‚ or hear his voice. I can still hear him singing. I feel like I lost a part of me when he died. I still go through his chats and listen to our voice notes. I cry. I laugh. I was angry when I heard he died. I still ask God why‚" his cousin Thando Piliso said.
His friends say they still walk down the dusty street outside the home he helped build and renovate for his mother and young brother‚ expecting him to call out to them.
"He was based in Joburg but came home as often as he could to visit his family. They meant the world to him and they are broken by this tragedy. This was his happy place‚ his centre‚ and every time I walk here and don't see him‚ it makes me feel the pain of his death over and over again. He gave us hope in a small town and we can't let that hope die with him."