Wordsmith, revolutionary Ditshego remembered

Liberation Struggle stalwart Sam Ditshego
Liberation Struggle stalwart Sam Ditshego

Mhlekazi Sam Ditshego, the news of your untimely passing is suffocating the national soul. As a product of your iconic intellectualism, I feel like a man struggling to run a 100-metre dash on a full stomach. I feel like a married bachelor who is engaged in unremitting self-analysis and dogged self-criticism which only serve to quell some manic recounting of his own inadequacies.

I feel like a hardworking businessman who hasn’t taken a vacation in 25 years. Yes, I feel like the Arctic sea which is kept mild by the shifting currents from the south.

History will always tell that, you were a champion of the reading and writing revolution of our country. History will always assert that on the writing landscape, you resembled the lush greenery in an oasis irrigated by the life-giving Algerian river as it descents towards the Sahara Desert. From my youthful days, your letters to the editor section have always been the major organising element of my academic life, just like paths that lead to an altered state of consciousness.

Reading them was like enjoying watching the spell-binding Russian circus where the traveller finds out the true expression of the Russian character. Reflecting upon them was like enjoying seeing the fantastic nature of the magnificent highway that zigzags on a mountainous tea plantation through Isterdalen, a valley in western Norway that has earned the road the name Strostigen, from the supernatural creatures of Scandinavian folklore.

Yours was a kind of writing that could make us "heart-attack proof" for many decades. Yours was a kind of writing that seemed to have the appeal of a panacea, offering the hope of rebirth to people from all walks of life. Yours was a kind of writing that entailed an evangelistic fervor where readers were moved to place a fundamentalist faith in the power of the word to ease away their troubles, bringing about a rebirth that spills over into the rest of their lives.

Your magnificent mind was like the gigantic cave beneath the Chimanimani Mountains in Zimbabwe, decorated with cave paintings that depict events from folklore. Your magnificent mind was sharper than a brand-new chisel that eats lovingly into the resilience of dry wood. Your great thinking was sharper than the Masaai spear that penetrates the skin of an elephant with ease. And your retentive memory was like the desert herbs that retain their water through the suffocating heat of their sand.

Golden ideas flowed from your mind like the waters that are churned every day by the mighty Mississippi River. Golden ideas came to you faster than bats fluttering an erratic zigzag path to the lower mountain slopes, their in-built radars serving as warnings for obstacles along the way, as they search for the fig tree in a big suburban garden.

Those were the ideas that were like the brightly painted houses of the Ndebele in Siyabuzwa. Those were the ideas that were like a shower of shooting stars. Those were the ideas that were like a chain of exploding volcanoes in Costa Rica. Those were the ideas that were as exciting as the hot mountain springs high on the Pumakkale plateau in Turkey, fed by rainwater that filters through layers of limestone, producing impressive stalactites and stalagmites.

You wrote with wit, charm and style, and your art of article writing will certainly stand for many years to come and will continue to exert a great influence in the lives of future generations.

Ditshego spent time in exile due to his political activism. He also served as the representative of Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in West Canada where he produced the magazine Izwe Lethu until his return to SA in 1995.

Ditshego will be buried tomorrow at the Heroes Acre of the Kagiso Cemetery in Mogale City on the West Rand. The service starts at 7am at Chief Mogale Multi-Purpose Centre. He is survive by his wife Elsie, two children Tshepo and Tebogo, his brother Moatshe and the extended family.  

Mokoena is an independent commentator based in Polokwane

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