In an ideal world, multitudes, football folk chief among them, ought to have lined up the streets along the Nasrec Road, south of Johannesburg in what would have been a befitting farewell to ‘one of their own’.
What a sight it would have been, beholding men and women, in football regalia and designer suits, all in one voice chanting and chorusing in celebration of a life like no other. However, such wouldn’t be the case as only those in close proximity would be the ones seeing off Thulani Thuswa to his final place of resting at Nasrec Memorial Park in Johannesburg.
There’s no iota of doubt that Thuswa, who met his untimely death on the morning of Sunday, June 6 following a car accident, was deserving of a far better sendoff than would be the case this Friday.
Many, whose lives he touched in a better way, would be likely following proceedings virtually courtesy of the new normal brought by the pandemic.
Link to his funeral: https://t.co/I1YuZ81eHs
It’s the masses, many beneficiaries of his kindness during his tenure at Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns, who will feel hard done by Covid-19 restrictions as they will be deprived a chance to once again belt the songs that moved and lifted Thuswa, a professional in duty and a patriot in supporting his clubs.
It was at Sundowns, where Thuswa showed his industriousness and elevated the club’s brand to another level. He went beyond the call of duty to serve players, coaches, supporters and the media. During my time at Independent Newspapers, based at Pretoria News in the country’s capital, part of my obligations was to deliver news on Sundowns, the pride of the city, almost every day. I benefitted massively from Thuswa’s workmanship and kindness as he let me have access to players and staff at Chloorkop. The ever smiling communicator par excellence even gave me the Wifi-password at Sundowns offices, where I was a regular.
Journalists are often viewed, by media officers, as enemies from whom they ought to protect themselves and hide. Thuswa was unfazed. In fact, he helped change such a culture.
Since the shattering news of his departure many people have hailed him as a genius who knew how to navigate his way in the murky world of football and media. Former Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane, in his tribute at Thuswa’s memorial service on Wednesday, applauded Thuswa for ensuring he didn’t have ‘sleepless nights on the media’.
Behind the scenes, away from the press conferences, Thuswa fought battles for Sundowns and Mosimane, often a volatile character. He also helped the club and the coach not to self-destruct in the media. Frosty relations with the media were quickly fixed by Thuswa to the benefit of all.
From 2018 to 2019, during most of Sundowns’ home games at Loftus Versfeld, I spent more time with Thuswa from one of the suites at the stadium. There was this particular box, where Thuswa, Mmasekepe Matsebane (Power FM) and I used to watch Mosimane’s men wreak havoc on the pitch. Every time I looked forward to going to the stadium because Thuswa, who was now more like a brother, would regale us with stories about various characters.
Many a time, I would instigate Thuswa to a storytelling tour by either dropping a name or by bribing him with a tale from a novel or a book I was reading. From then he would take over telling stories that are worth stacks of paper. Priceless stuff. This space may not be sufficient to tell the story about the legend that Thuswa was. His understanding of political and social issues was profound.
One of the most fulfilling chill sessions I had with Thuswa was on July 5, 2019 at Mall of Africa, where we sat for more than two hours enjoying hot beverages from Starbucks. Thuswa was in his element dishing out stories that left me in stitches and in awe. He enriched most of us with his knowledge and experiences. I learnt a lot from him. While at Starbucks, he showed me the most enjoyable way to eat dark chocolate waffles. He asked the waiter to warm them for us.
“Do you know who showed me how to have them this way?” he asked.
“You tell me.”
From his travels, with Sundowns, across the continent, there are stories aplenty. Blockbuster stuff. Had it not been of Covid-19, I would have been there, together with the masses this Friday, singing and sobbing in remembrance of a man worth 10 000 of us.
Thank God for the life of Thulani Thuswa!
RELATED STORY: Mosimane’s full tribute to Thuswa
By Hosea Ramphekwa