Legend lives on in all who knew him
Basil "Doc" Sipho Bikitsha is dead. Long live the Carcass.
The irreverent Doc will always be remembered and worshipped by those of us who joined the journalism fraternity in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a writer, storyteller and comedian par excellence.
I was shocked to receive the news about Doc from Raymond Mashao on Monday. This was followed by a call from Camuel Dikotla, who learnt a trick or two from Doc during the heyday of the now defunct Rand Daily Mail.
I vividly remember joining the Mail as a freelance journalist in 1979. Doc welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home when we first met in the busy newsroom.
Doc sarcastically asked me in a typical Xhosa accent to make tea for him: "Stan, let's taste your hand my son."
I did not take offence at that. Who would with Doc? He showed me the ropes and I, fresh from high school, really felt at ease.
Doc was always willing to help youngsters like us. Louis Mazibuko would come to Doc for help with an intro and Doc would always came up with something catchy for him.
The late Joe Sefale would always stick to Doc like glue because he felt good in his company. There wasn't a dull moment in the Mail newsroom when Doc was around.
Guys like the late Jimmy "BJ" Tloti and Mike Louw, who knew Doc and were fellow East Rand residents, would say: "Where the hell is the bugger?''
Doc was revered and loved by everyone, from the cleaner, a messenger and a security guy to the managing director at Saan (South African Associated Newspapers). Everyone at 171 Main Street knew Doc.
I would like to share three stories about Doc during the years I worked with him in which I am the main or secondary character.
I remember, as a rookie journalist, I went on my first assignment to Mafikeng. I was given an advance of R100 cash, which in 1980 was worth nearly 10 times that value now. After covering the story, I had to account for every cent spent. Mind you, it was a sponsored trip with free food and drinks. But being a rookie, I decided to do accounting for my expenditure. I tried to come up with corresponding figures but it was not easy. I decided to write R50 for fruit. I then took the list to Doc.
He took one look at it and said: "You must have bought the whole orchard.''
The second story is when I had booked in at the Holiday Inn in Milpark, but I was stranded because Gabu Tugwana had left with my Holiday Inn card. I could not check out. I decided to phone Doc, who was always early at work, to help locate Gabu. Doc, being Doc, said: "What do you expect me to do? Why don't you use the chimney, you bastard?"
The last story is about when Ted Seals, Doc, BJ and I went to Sun City, courtesy of Hazel Feldman. Ted and I went in first and Doc followed. Security let Ted and I through because we were in formal clothes. Doc, in jeans, kept the security guy busy with jokes and was let through. Then it was Jimmy's turn, and he also had jeans on.
The security guy stopped him, so Jimmy asked, "What about that one?', and the security guy was forced to call Doc back.
Doc then said to Jimmy: "You bastard, you must learn to fight your own battles.''
That was Doc at his best.
Doc was a man for all seasons and would make people laugh wherever he was.
Lala Kahle Zizi.
l Stan Hlophe is an SABC journalist who worked with Doc Bikitcha at the Rand Daily Mail.