Dr Mashadi Motlana

Dr Mashadi Motlana

My father had energy, vitality and a radiant smile that would light up any room. Even lying in an ICU bed didn't dampen his spirits.

He often had his anxious family in stitches at his bedside. He declared: "Humpty Dumpy had fallen and couldn't be put together again."

His mind remained sharp till the end. He would be quick to remind my mother, Zanele, that she had forgotten to lubricate his eyes at night.

He had up until May this year (when the cancer was unresponsive to chemotherapy) exercised religiously every day. He took his running shoes with him wherever he travelled. He was disciplined about what he ate and neither drank nor smoked.

At dinner he would caution those tucking into a second helping: "You must always leave the table feeling like you could eat some more."

If I had gained a bit of weight, he would not so discreetly suggest that I skip the dessert.

He had a vast wealth of knowledge to share. He was an avid reader and had an enquiring mind. He loved to travel, even to places off the beaten track such as Ethiopia, and had hiked at the foot of the Himalayas in Nepal.

He encouraged everyone to read, and couldn't understand how a luncheon could take a couple of hours when there was so much to read. He delighted in everything innovative and novel. A few years ago it was my then 80-year-old father who introduced me to the world of Internet banking.

He believed in being precise with language and would become impatient with people who repeated themselves. He was also very punctual and organised. He would be exasperated at the state of our rooms as children and pronounce: "An untidy room reflects an untidy mind."

He encouraged his children and grandchildren to fulfil their potential and never pushed them in any direction. I was inspired by his selfless devotion to his patients. He practised medicine to improve the lot of his people, many of whom he treated for free.

It was my choice to follow in his footsteps and go to his alma mater to study medicine. He was worried for my personal safety when I chose psychiatry as a specialty.

When he understood how passionate I was about my field, he did not attempt to dissuade me. On the other hand, one of my brothers, Wandile, was inspired by my father's business acumen. He has an MBA and runs an investment company - Kensani Holdings.

My father celebrated the academic achievements of every member of the community, as he believed firmly that education had the power to catapult impoverished communities out of poverty.

He educated many individuals not expecting so much as a thank you in return. When asked what kept him giving even when his efforts remained unacknowledged, he would reply by saying: "This is what I was meant to do on Earth. God would not give me a burden I could not bear."

We will miss the sparkle in his eyes, his warm smile, his humour, humility and wisdom, the endearing qualities of our father.

He never tired of helping others and was a pillar of strength. Always courageous, forthright and acting with integrity.

We are privileged to have shared our father with the nation.