Mediocrity wasn’t her thing

2013-03-17 10:00

“Well you came and you gave without taking?.?.?.?” – Mandy, by Barry Manilow.

It was in London’s famed Kew Gardens, while half listening to presentations from Rio Tinto’s top brass, that I caught an article one Mandy Rossouw had written, ironically about Julius Malema and his stated drive for nationalisation.

I had never really interacted with her, save the odd retweet or two. She was that reporter girl, the one with a penchant for exposing political types and giving what I thought to be patently flawed political analyses. After reading her article I reached out to “set her straight”.

The article was in one of these international journals foreign executives base their opinions of the world on, and it posited that, given the then youth leader’s political prowess, it appeared wholesale nationalisation of the mining sector was imminent.

Our exchange quickly reached a moment of truth: “So if some of you young comrades aren’t for taking over all of the mines, why don’t we hear from you?”

She had this amazing ability to get to the heart of the matter. Any matter.

In the months to come, I often noted and admired this ability, among others, as we became friendly. She interviewed me a few times, more often than any other journo did. She was taken with the concept of the mass mobilisation of young people with a lofty set of ideals and values.

Although she was often exceedingly complimentary in print, she was always more forthright in person.

“When will you do something about all that’s going wrong?” she quizzed me.

She always left me wondering about what more could be done. I think she, too, wondered.

Often, she would discuss the politics of the day in the manner akin to a psychologist. It wasn’t just about the “scoop”. Over a glass of wine, she would unpack the lessons.

Most enchanting about Mandy was that she was a believer.

She really, deeply believed that South Africans were worth their weight in gold and could rise to greater heights. In time, I began to understand this was part of the reason she so vociferously spoke truth to power.

Like the rank and file of believers, she did a lot. She was always as busy as a bee. So I felt privileged when we collaborated on certain Cheesekids projects.

And I was concerned at how she planned to balance it all. As usual, she shrugged it off. For someone so adept at getting answers, she relished retaining an air of mystery. She could undoubtedly have found her way into formalised politics.

Recently, I remarked to a mutual friend of my awe at how many different worlds she occupied: the powerful, the disaffected, the established, the blacks, the boere, the kleurlinge, the restless, the young. And how she was so endearing to them all.

It was not just the tinkle of her infectious laugh and her quick wit. There was ever the bellowing furnace of her heart.

In the short time I came to know the Mandy Rossouw behind the typeface, we shared many tales of our respective backgrounds. The one story I didn’t get to tell her was one of my uncle receiving my Grade?5 report card. He took one look at it, clicked his tongue and walked off. There were more Cs on it than in a Spanish parliamentary debate.

I didn’t see him for a week. And, when I did, he told me he couldn’t be around mediocrity. I never brought such a report home again.

That’s the sinking feeling your passing evokes, Mandy. Judging from how you always pushed me, from your incessant drive to create a benchmark for us all to be better, perhaps our mediocrity was too much for you.

I only hope in penning our eulogies for you, we all grow up a little and change our collective report cards.

Rest in peace, dear friend.

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